Before presenting the university’s highest award for alumni achievement, USC President Steven B. Sample surprised an audience of nearly 550 and honored the recipient’s Trojan father.
The unprecedented move came during the USC Alumni Association’s 75th Awards Gala, when Christopher Cox (‘73), USC College alumnus and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chairman, received the Asa V. Call Achievement Award.
“We’ve got so much cardinal and gold in our blood that sometimes it’s hard to know where your immediate family stops and the Trojan Family begins,” Cox said of his multi-generational family of Trojans.
Alumni merit awards went to College alumna Suzanne Nora Johnson (’79) and Adam Herbert (’66) of the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development.
At the ceremony, Sample said that during World War II Cox’s father, Charles, was a USC senior preparing to graduate when duty called.
On his graduation day in June 1943, Charles Cox was on shipboard headed for the Philippines, where he joined allied forces in Operation Cartwheel, aimed at isolating the major Japanese base in New Guinea. The mission was successful, paving the way for Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s island-hopping campaign towards Japan. Returning to Los Angeles after the war, Charles Cox never received his diploma.
“So tonight I want to rectify this oversight,” Sample said during the April 4 event held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A.
To roaring applause and a standing ovation, Sample handed the elder Cox a leather case.
“This evening,” Sample said, “65 years after he completed his degree, it is my great honor as president of USC to present Charles Cox with his diploma.”
In introducing Christopher Cox, Sample noted that the SEC chairman “embodies the traits of an ideal Trojan — faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous and ambitious.”
Throughout his career Cox has been fiercely loyal to his alma mater, devoted to his colleagues and committed to his values, Sample said, adding that Cox graduated from USC magna cum laude in English and political science in only three years, then earned his M.B.A. and J.D. degrees simultaneously from Harvard University.
After Harvard Law, Cox became a partner with a large firm, taught at Harvard Business School and started his own company, Context Corporation, which published the English translation of the Soviet Union’s daily newspaper, Pravda. He entered politics at age 35, when President Reagan hired him as one of his White House counsels.
Before his SEC appointment by President George W. Bush, Cox served in the U.S. Congress for 17 years, representing what is now California’s 48th congressional district in Orange County.
In video interviews played on a big screen, several major political and scholarly figures congratulated Cox, including USC Provost C.L. Max Nikias, George H.W. Bush, Nobel Prize-winner and USC Distinguished Professor George Olah, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“He’s always been a champion for California, in particular for USC,” Pelosi said of Cox. “There has never been a more loyal Trojan.”
Cox said the Asa V. Call Award, along with the other alumni honors given that night, went “far beyond the individuals who received them.”
“Tonight the award winners are the close-ups, but we’re cropped from a panoramic picture of USC that includes many men and women just like us, and that spans the globe,” he said.
“It’s a picture of excellence that’s truly unique in the world. This evening is about all of us — the Trojan Family.”
In accepting her award, Johnson, a USC trustee and senior director of the Goldman Sachs, thanked her USC professors, including political scientists Carl Christol, Larry Berg and Harlan Hahn, and Donald Miller and J. Wesley Robb of religion.
“And I have to confess to you,” she said, “I still look at these professors’ notes regularly from classes 30 years ago.”
Among others Johnson thanked was Dean Joan Metcalf Schaefer, whose tenure at USC spans about 50 years. Known as Dean Joan, Schaefer holds the official title of Dean of Women Emerita. Schaefer, who is still active on campus, attended the ceremony.
“Not only did she ignite my scholastic adventures at USC, abroad and other places, she did that for so many people who are here tonight,” said Johnson, who graduated from the College with a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies, focusing on economics, philosophy, religion and political science. She earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Johnson, a member of the USC College Board of Councilors, concluded with an observation first made by Wilma Pearl Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. Mankiller said one should never make an important decision affecting one’s society until one has considered seven generations, former and future.
“And USC has now had seven generations,” Johnson said of California’s oldest private research university, founded in 1880. “And it really is a perfect time to underscore the strength of our community, past and present.”
Herbert earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from USC, then received his Ph.D. in philosophy, focusing on urban affairs and public administration, from the University of Pittsburgh. Currently president emeritus of Indiana University, he served as that university’s 17th president from 2003 to 2007.
The first African-American president of a major Indiana university, Herbert enhanced academic quality and diversity on each of the university’s eight campuses.
Farnsworth graduated magna cum laude with a degree in “the arts,” an interdisciplinary studies program in the College with an emphasis in speech. In her junior year she made Trojan history by becoming the first woman captain of the USC Trojan Debate Squad. She taught in high schools and is still highly committed to USC.
Epstein, a USC trustee since 2002, is a Viterbi honors graduate who received an Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1994. Eight years later, following Epstein’s contribution of the largest-ever gift to a USC academic department, the Viterbi School honored him by renaming that department the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. Epstein and his family also gave the lead gift for a new alumni center, which will be named for them and open in 2010.
Founder and chairman of ConAm Management Corp., Epstein directs one of the nation’s top 10 privately-owned apartment management, ownership and development firms. Chair on the USC Board of Trustees Committee on Alumni Affairs, Epstein also serves on the Viterbi Board of Councilors and the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate Development’s executive committee.
Bedrosian, a businessman and longtime philanthropist, co-founded National Medical Enterprises (NME). In 1995, two years after departing NME, Bedrosian entered the dot-com era by co-founding Autobytel, Inc., the Internet’s largest new and used car buying service.
In 2005, Bedrosian and his wife Judith endowed the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development’s Judith and John Bedrosian Center on Governance and the Public Enterprise.