University of Southern California

About USC

Steven B. Sample

Steven B. Sample served as president of the University of Southern California from 1991 to August 2010. Under Sample’s leadership, USC solidified its status as one of the nation’s leading research universities and emerged as a world leader in the fields of communication, multimedia technologies, and life sciences.

During Sample’s tenure, USC became a highly selective undergraduate institution; completed a national record-setting fundraising campaign and received five gifts of $100 million or more; conducted the largest capital construction campaign in its history on both campuses; received national acclaim for its innovative community partnerships; and advanced its presence and influence as a global university that enrolls more international students and has more international alumni than any other American university.

Sample was a tenured professor in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. As president, he co-taught with management expert Warren Bennis an undergraduate course titled “The Art and Adventure of Leadership.” His book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, has been a Los Angeles Times best-seller, was named one of six “must-reads” for leaders by Harvard Management Update of the Harvard Business School, and has been translated into five languages. He donated all royalties from the book to a scholarship fund for USC undergraduates.

He was a member of both the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Sample was the author of numerous journal articles and published papers in science and engineering and higher education. His patents in the field of digital appliance controls have been licensed to practically every major manufacturer of appliance controls and microwave ovens in the world. Over 300 million home appliances have been built using his inventions.

Sample chaired many statewide and national groups examining the state of elementary, secondary, and higher education. In 1994 he convened a group of Los Angeles leaders which was awarded a $53 million challenge grant from the Annenberg Foundation to accelerate reforms in local public schools. He was a past chairman of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of the 63 leading North American research universities. He chaired a special AAU committee on postdoctoral education and co-chaired an AAU task force on increasing protection for human subjects in university-based research.

In order to capitalize on the emerging power and prominence of the Pacific Rim, Sample co-founded the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), a consortium of 42 premier Pacific Rim research universities located in 15 countries that foster international collaboration among faculty, students, and university leaders.

Sample came to USC from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he had served as president.

Sample earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has received honorary doctorates from the State University of New York at Buffalo (2006), the University of Notre Dame (2005), Northeastern University (2004), the University of Nebraska (1995), Purdue University (1994), Hebrew Union College (1994), the University of Sheffield, England (1991), and Canisius College, Buffalo (1989).

The recipient of numerous awards, Sample received the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Founders Medal, the Distinguished Business Leader Award from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Heart of the City Award from the Central City Association of Los Angeles, and the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, the highest award bestowed by the State University of New York at Buffalo. He also received the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews (now the National Conference for Community and Justice), the Hollzer Memorial Award from the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, the Eddy Award for excellence in economic development from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, and the University of Illinois’ Alumni Achievement Award.

Sample married the former Kathryn Brunkow of Park Ridge, Illinois and had two daughters and two grandchildren.

Steven and Kathryn Sample Hall—part of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center—is named in their honor, as is a special Renaissance Scholar Endowment that supports outstanding juniors and seniors at USC who excel in widely disparate fields of study. The Samples gave the university the bronze statue of USC’s mascot, Traveler, that overlooks Hahn Central Plaza on the University Park campus, and the plaza fountain at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center is dedicated to Fred and Evelyn Moorman Brunkow, Mrs. Sample’s parents.