Skip to main content

From the Dean, Fall 2012/Winter 2013

The Kingdom of Memory


One tiny drop of pond water. That’s all it took. Peering down a microscope at the age of 10, I can distinctly remember glimpsing — for the first time — the miniscule creatures alive in that tiny sample. The hundreds of cilia that beat in unison to propel the Paramecium. The rotating, whip-like flagella that moves the Euglena about. The millions of microbes found in a splash of water.

I began to realize that there is so much more to uncover in life than what you can see at the ends of your hands and feet. I was sold on becoming a scientist.

Throughout my subsequent path as a scholar, teacher and leader, I have often reminded myself of that moment of pure joy. However, what I have found even more inspiring is witnessing such Eureka moments alongside students as they not only grasp a concept, but run with it, synthesize it, extend it in their own ways. That passage into discovery is often life-changing and always unforgettable.

Each of us has an eclectic set of recollections that in no small part defines who we are. In this issue, we consider the complex subject of memory through multiple lenses: science, literature, history, culture and family. For as Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel noted in a 1984 interview for The Paris Review, “In the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.”

As the 21st dean of USC Dornsife, I have the privilege of leading our students, faculty, alumni, staff and supporters during a pivotal time in the university’s history. We are embarking together on a journey that will no doubt leave an indelible mark upon our collective memory as Trojans as we build upon our strong liberal arts ethos and graduate programs while continuing to ensure access to the world-class faculty and facilities for scholarship.

I invite all of you to join in the cutting-edge narrative that comprises USC Dornsife, so we can emerge with experiences that will help shape our shared future.

Steve Kay
Dean, USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair