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From the Dean, Spring/Summer 2011

Scientia Gratia Hominis: Knowledge for the Sake of Humankind

 


One of the great pleasures of being Dean has been getting to know Dana and David Dornsife. During the past four years we have enjoyed many special moments together. We have shared our passions, talked about our travels (they have better stories!), and discussed the exciting world of letters, arts and sciences. Our friendship has meant a great deal to me and my wife Ellen.

Dana and David are incredibly smart, friendly, funny, genuine and gracious. When you first meet them, you are struck by their sincerity. You won’t immediately realize that you are in the presence of two of the greatest humanitarians and philanthropists of our time. Only when you learn about their world-changing projects will you realize they can also be extraordinarily determined, at least when it comes to the hard but essential work of making the world a better place.

We are so very grateful for their historic gift — the largest single gift in USC’s history and the largest naming gift in the history of higher education for a college of letters, arts and sciences. This rare gift of unrestricted endowment support for the heart of the university will expand core support for outstanding undergraduate education, distinguished Ph.D. programs, and world-class scholarly and creative research throughout the humanities, social sciences and sciences.

But we are just as grateful for the gift of their names. Their names will serve as an enduring inspiration to all faculty, students and staff who are part of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Their commitment represents an unprecedented show of confidence in the community of letters, arts and sciences. It reflects an abiding appreciation of the fact that research and teaching in our core disciplines are central to the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit and to the advancement of our community and our world.

Our task now is to do justice to their faith in our world of inquiry and discovery.

We begin by creating a new Dornsife Scholars Program to recognize outstanding graduating seniors from USC Dornsife whose academic achievements across all spheres of knowledge address basic questions of human value and vital social challenges facing our nation and the world.

We will remain vigilant to ensure that our scholarship addresses important questions and pushes the frontiers of knowledge in a way that has a lasting impact on our disciplines and our world. We will all work together to ensure that undergraduate education prepares our students to thrive in a rapidly changing world and inspires them to make a difference. Through our Ph.D. programs we will train new generations of scholars, who in turn will extend the endless cycle of inquiry, discovery and education.

All of us have a role to play — faculty, students, parents, staff, alumni, friends, and supporters. We are grateful inheritors of a great legacy, but we are also uniquely privileged to be part of this very special moment in USC’s history and in the history of higher education.

Let’s all commit to working together to do justice to this moment, so that we might build on this opportunity to achieve enduring distinction.

The Latin phrase scientia gratia hominis translates as “knowledge for the sake of humankind.” I think it is a wonderful sentiment. I believe it captures the importance and value of the world of letters, arts and sciences. Now this world is graced with an inspirational name, which will be synonymous with scholarly inquiry in service of human enlightenment and progress: the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

 

Howard Gillman
Dean of USC Dornsife
Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair

 

Read more articles from USC Dornsife Magazine's Spring/Summer 2011 issue