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In Memory of William E. Trusten, 51

In Memory of William E. Trusten, 51

Longtime USC College staffer honored with establishment of Trusten Student Award

July 2004

William E. Trusten, a long-time staff member in the USC College biological sciences department and a 1978 alumnus of USC Thornton School of Music, died June 9, 2004 just days before his 52nd birthday, of cancer.

A well-loved and widely respected member of the Trojan Family, Trusten first came to USC in 1976 to study with piano great Brooks Smith, an internationally known musician and a teacher at the Thornton School. Trusten earned a Master’s of Music in accompanying in 1978, and returned to Thornton in 1981 as an administrative assistant in the department of keyboard studies/organ, and a piano instructor.

Trusten, born in St. Paul, Minnesota, earned a Bachelor of Arts in music theory at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis before he came to USC.

Trusten joined the biology staff in 1988, working with graduate students in molecular biology before taking on the job of graduate student coordinator in 1996. In that position, Trusten led the administration of all of the biology doctoral programs, which now number five.

Known for his dedication, Trusten helped scores of students successfully navigate the graduate school experience, offering “hands-on help” from their initial requests for information and applications to the filing of dissertations, according to David Caron, chair and professor of biological sciences at the College.

Consistently, Caron says, “Bill went well above and beyond the call of duty to make sure students knew what was required of them.”

“Bill made enormous contributions to the department. He treated everybody with kindness and dignity. He was a highly valued part of our team,” says Caron, noting that colleagues, faculty and students will all miss his presence.

Trusten also contributed to undergraduate education, giving an annual guest lecture on the progress of HIV research and his own life experience as a man with HIV.

Before his death, the biology department created a new student award in his honor. With funds from the department, the College and individuals whose lives Trusten had touched, the department successfully collected $20,000 to endow the William E. Trusten Student Award.

At a small, brief ceremony held in Trusten’s hospital room in May, the inaugural $1,000 award was presented to neuroscience graduate student Kim Christian, now a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health. Trusten assisted department faculty in selecting Christian in recognition of her research and student leadership.

Outside of USC, Trusten was a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles for 25 years. He served as its lead accompanist from 1981 until his retirement in 1999.

No funeral is planned, but Trusten’s remains will be interred during a brief ceremony at 11 a.m., Friday, July 16, at the Church of St. Andrew, 1231 East Chapman Avenue, Fullerton.

Donations by check in Trusten’s memory may be made to support the endowed award (payable to “William E. Trusten Student Award”) in care of Glen A. Smith, Biological Sciences, AHF 107F, M/C 0371, USC, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0371; or to the Chorus (payable to “GMCLA”) at 1125 N. McCadden Place, Suite 235, Los Angeles, CA 90038.

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