Logo: University of Southern California

Anonymous Donations Totalling $2 Million Endow Steven and Kathryn Sample Chair at Viterbi School

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and AECOM President/CEO John Dionisio also recognized at Awards Banquet
Eric Mankin
April 08, 2010 —

The newest chair in engineering at the USC Viterbi School will bear the name of USC President Steven B. Sample and his wife Kathryn.

The surprise announcement of the chair, funded by anonymous gifts totalling $2 million, came at the school’s awards banquet, at which Sample also received the Viterbi School Lifetime Achievement Award.

Steven and Kathryn Sample with the plaque announcing the engineering chair that will bear their name. (Click on image to view video biography)
Alumnus Charles Bolden, now administrator of NASA, and John Dionisio, president and chief executive officer of AECOM Technology Corporation also received awards at the gathering, held April 7 at the California Club.

The announcement came while Sample was at the podium, having just received his Viterbi School award.

Following his acceptance speech Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos announced the creation of the new chair—an announcement that clearly came as a gratifying surprise to Sample.

"I've always been very proud of my background as an engineer and of being a tenured professor in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering," said Sample. "Kathryn and I both feel honored and humbled to have our names associated with the exceptional faculty members who will hold this chair in engineering."

Yortsos read the plaque he presented: “To honor the extraordinary achievements of Steven and Kathryn Sample during 19 years of service and leadership at USC, the Viterbi School of Engineering establishes the Steven and Kathryn Sample Chair in Engineering.”

According to Yortsos, “bestowing a faculty member with an endowed chair is one of the highest academic recognitions. The recognition is all the higher when the endowed chair is named after a distinguished person. A chair bearing Steve and Kathryn Sample's names is accordingly an ultimate honor at USC.

(from left) Andrew J. Viterbi, NASA Adminstrator Charles Bolden, USC President Steven Sample, Kathryn Sample, AECOM President/CEO John Dionisio, Dean Yannis Yortsos

“We are very fortunate to be in the position to secure major anonymous gifts to fully fund the chair in Steve and Kathryn's names. The next step will be to appoint a distinguished faculty member, either one already in the Viterbi School or one recruited from outside, to fill the chair. We are very excited about this new opportunity and look forward to materializing it soon.”

Immediately previously, Sample had received his Lifetime Achievement Award from the school namesake, Andrew J. Viterbi.

This is not awarded annually, but only to exceptional candidates for extraordinary service. Legendary engineer Si Ramo was the other such recipient in 2008.

Said Viterbi in making the award: “Steven B. Sample, for your research contributions to engineering, for your remarkable teaching and writings in a wide gamut of fields, and for what history will record as one of the most remarkable leadership accomplishments in academic history, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering is pleased to present you with the Lifetime Achievement Award.”

In his acceptance speech, Sample spoke of changes in the "nearly 50 years since I decided to become an engineer," back when the slide rule was the standard personal computing tool. "Engineering has certainly played an important part in my life and my career. It helped me develop analytical skills, creativity, and judgment. And, I have no doubt, it has helped me become a better academic leader.

Bolden 2
Charles F. Bolden receives Stevens award. (Click on image to view Bolden biography)
"Over the last 19 years it has been a great privilege for me to serve as USC’s president. It’s been a pleasure to know and work with the talented and dedicated men and women of the Viterbi School. You have made me very proud to say that I am a full professor in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering."

Before the Sample awards, two other highly accomplished leaders received recognition from the Viterbi School.

The Mark A. Stevens Distinguished Alumni Award is named for the distinguished engineer, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and USC engineering alumnus and USC Trustee.

This year, the Stevens honor went to alumnus (MS Systems Management, ‘77) Charles F. Bolden, appointed in May 2009 as NASA administrator. Bolden retired from the United States Marine Corps in 2003 as a major general in command of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing after serving more than 34 years. In 1980, he was selected as an astronaut by NASA, flying two space shuttle missions as pilot and two missions as commander.

Following the Challenger accident in 1986, Gen. Bolden was named the Chief of the Safety Division at the Johnson Space Center with responsibilities for overseeing the safety efforts in the return-to-flight efforts. Immediately prior to his 2009 NASA appointment, Bolden was leading JackandPanther LLC, a privately held military and aerospace consulting firm.

The Daniel J. Epstein Engineering Management Award bears the name of a distinguished leader in industry management, an outstanding USC engineering alumnus and a USC Trustee.

Epstein Award winner John Dionisio. (Click on the image to view a video biography)

This year’s recipient, John M. Dionisio has been the Chief Executive Officer, President and a Director of AECOM Technology Corporation since 2005 after long service in senior management positions in the company. A Fortune 500 company, AECOM is one of the world's largest engineering and architectural design firms. It provides professional, technical and management support services support services, specifically in the areas of transportation, facilities, environmental and energy and has more than 45,000 employees in more than 100 countries.

His longtime colleague, AECOM founding director Albert Dorman, was in the audience during the presentation and was duly recognized by Yortsos.

The event included a musical presentation by Viterbi school faculty members who combine interest in systems engineering and computer science with musical performance skills. Carl Kesselman (clarinet, ISE) and Elaine Chew (piano, ISE) joined with violinist T.K. Wang to play a trio by Darius Milhaud.

Table sponsors included: Abraxis Bioscience, Oxy, AECOM, The Aerospace Corporation, CorpInfo, Albert Dorman, Benzimra Family Foundation, Lockheed Martin, John and Bettina Deininger, Ming Hsieh, JPL, Simon Ramo, John and Dorothy Shea, J.L. Patterson & Associates, Inc, Raytheon, The Reynolds Group, Boeing, Southern California Edison, the USC Alumni Association and Northrop Grumman, plus two student table sponsors, Ynocencio Gonzalez and Robert Logue.