Logo: University of Southern California

Astani Department Unveils Plaque in Honor of Naming Donor

Kaprielian Hall the scene of toasts and congratulations

April 23, 2009 —

In recognition of developer Sonny Astani’s $17 million gift to the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, the university unveiled the naming plaque for the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. 

Viterbi School Senior

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Unveiled: from left, Jean-Pierre Bardet, Jo Astani, Sonny Astani, John O'Brien.
Associate Dean John O'Brien and Astani Department chair Jean-Pierre Bardet joined USC faculty, staff and students at the commemorative ceremony honoring Mr. Astani’s generous donation. 

“As a graduate of USC and a developer in downtown Los Angeles, I’m grateful for the opportunity to help facilitate the education of future generations of civil and environmental engineers who will play a vital role in the future of this city as well as shaping cities and landscapes around the world,” said Sonny Astani, who earned his master’s degree from USC in 1978. 

"There is no better location for this plaque than Kaprielian Hall - which is named for our great former dean Zohrab Kaprielian, who laid the foundation and helped build the school into the powerhouse that it is today," said O'Brien in his remarks.

"Sonny has produced innovations in his chosen field, and added immensely to the culture and aesthetics of modern urban living. He is a visionary who draws inspiration from the wonders of ancient civilizations to help build spiritually uplifting cities for the future.

The naming gift that he gave our department helps position USC engineering at the forefront of new engineering challenges, for the benefit of generations of USC students to come, and for the larger world."

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Donor and plaque
Astani Department Chair Jean-Pierre Bardet noted Astani's cultural impact. "Sonny promotes urban renaissance and arts. No surprise that he named his new building in down Los Angeles Concerto, a standing testimony of harmonious urban developments in Southern California. Sonny promotes urban renaissance at a time of unprecedented urbanization. In 1950, 1/3 of the world population lived in cities, and 2/3 in rural areas. By 2050, this trend is projected to reverse with 2/3 living in cities. Our planet faces the largest urbanization ever experienced in its history, and the rise of megacities, large cities over 10 millions. 

"Sonny’s generosity will help the Sonny Astani department to solve the emerging problems in megacities, and having a megacity - Los Angeles - as a research laboratory right in our own backyard, we are in a great position to address and solve unprecedented challenges in environmental quality and health, sustainability, livability, energy, infrastructure and transportation."

Astani’s donation to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, which was announced in late 2007, is the largest ever to name such a department, and is the fourth department naming gift for the Viterbi School since it began its $300-million fundraising initiative in 2001. 

Astani is the founder of Astani Enterprises, Inc. and the developer of Concerto at 9th and Figueroa, the new $300 million condomium and loft project covering 100,000 feet in downtown L.A.’s South Park. Based in Beverly Hills, California, his firm has acquired, developed, constructed and managed over $1 billion of multi-family buildings and condominiums, including 5,000 apartment units managed throughout Southern California and an additional 1,800 units developed in downtown, Korea Town and Hollywood.

A native of Iran, Astani immigrated to the United States nearly 30 years ago where he began his studies at USC and earned a Master’s Degree in Engineering.  He serves on the board of a multitude of organizations including the Executive Committee of the Central City Association, Board of Counselors of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and The Leadership Council for
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An enthusiastic chair: Jean-Pierre Bardet. (Click on the image to view a slide show of the unveiling.)
USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate Development.  He has been awarded with the USC Engineering School’s 2007 Distinguished Alumni Award and the Industrial and Systems Engineering School’s 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award. 

In addition to his generous gift to the USC Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,  Astani’s philanthropic contributions to the Skid Row Housing Trust and New Economics for Woman show his deep commitment to downtown Los Angeles that goes beyond real estate.

A resident of Pacific Palisades, Astani and his wife Jo have three children and they are part of a diverse immediate family with ties to 10 nations. His hobbies include yoga, cycling, swimming, Tai Chi and Karate, in which he holds a 2nd degree black belt. He is currently the chairman of the Tenshin-Kai Tai Chi & Karate in Culver City with branches in the U.S. and Japan.

"It is wonderful," said Bardet, "to have USC Civil and Environmental Engineering so closely associated with Sonny Astani, a name that is synonymous with excellence in our field and with the vision to shape the future in Los Angeles, Southern California and the world at large."