Growing up in Asbury Park, N.J., Tyler Pullen longed to become the first person in his family to go to college. His father, a press operator, and his mother, a grocery store manager, encouraged him to aim high.
So he did. Pullen, a stellar high school student, applied and received admission to USC, John Hopkins University and Virginia Tech University. He decided to become a Trojan. The scholarship package offered by USC, including the Richard Hunsaker Endowed Civil Engineering Scholarship, helped make his decision an easy one.
“I can’t picture who I’d be or where I’d be if I hadn’t come to SC,” said Pullen, a senior in the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering with a 3.75 GPA and plans to apply for a graduate Fulbright in Australia.
Decades earlier, Regina Hunsaker, B.A. ’64, and USC Viterbi alumnus Richard Hunsaker, B.S. ’63, received first-rate educations and thoroughly enjoyed their time at USC. Richard went on to co-found Hunsaker & Associates, a successful engineering consulting firm. The Hunsakers’ feelings about their alma mater only intensified over time. In 2004, the Newport Beach couple established their scholarship.
“We appreciate all that SC has given to us,” Regina Hunsaker said. “Education at a fine institution is very expensive today, and we want young people to have the same opportunity we did.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 9, the Hunsakers met Pullen for the first time at the USC Viterbi Scholarship & Fellowship Luncheon. The inaugural event, which brought together passionate donors and grateful scholarship recipients, celebrated the philanthropists’ generosity and impact.
Dean Yannis Yortsos spoke about the importance of scholarships and how they allow USC to attract and retain the best students, one of the school’s top priorities. USC Viterbi scholarship recipients, he added, will one day become future leaders who will make important contributions to solving the world’s problems.
On a personal note, Yortsos described how his graduate scholarship to Caltech had forever transformed his life. “I know the value, the importance and the meaning of scholarship support,” he said. “I don’t think I would be here today were it not for the generosity shown by so many.”
Senior Associate Dean for Graduate and Professional Programs Kelly Goulis thanked philanthropists for their kind support. She added that USC Viterbi “must continue to develop a consistent pipeline for fellowship” to ensure sustained excellence.
Louise Yates, senior associate dean for admissions and student affairs, added that USC Viterbi must also have the resources to provide scholarships to students who “shine brightly after they enroll [here] and bring continued recognition to the school through their academic and co-curricular endeavors.”
Keynote Speaker Kenneth Richardson, M.S. '54, encouraged students to become "international legends."
“Set your goal on becoming an international legend, and you will do it,” said Richardson, a former USC Alumnus of the Year, inductee to the USC Half-Century Trojan Hall of Fame and creator of the Richardson Endowed Undergraduate Merit Research Award.
Richardson’s powerful message resonated with the students on hand, especially senior Alex Coco. During his time at USC Viterbi, the astronautical engineering major has served as a Freshman Academy coach, Viterbi Student Ambassador and as a member of the Rocket Propulsion Lab. So talented is Coco that next year he expects to receive a master’s program in mechanical engineering with an energy emphasis.
For Coco, though, one of his greatest honors was being selected for a Richardson award.
The award allowed him to participate in an advanced research project, under the direction of Professor Joseph Kunc, to build an inexpensive and easily customizable light lunar Lander prototype. Coco proved himself so adept that he eventually became leader of the team working on the rocket’s cold gas thruster attitude control system.
“Without that award,” Coco said, “I wouldn’t really understand how engineering works. I wouldn’t have had such hands-on experience.”
Looking at the assembled, Mary Ann Schwartz, the senior associate dean for advancement, thanked donors “who have given so much to our students over the years.
"Your generosity, we hope, will inspire them and other Trojan friends to one day make gifts of their own," she added.