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Trojan Family Establishes Endowed Chair in Humanities

Trojan Family Establishes Endowed Chair in Humanities

By Katherine Yungmee Kim
January 2005

Jim Corfman (B.A., History, 1964) is marveling over the Trojan swimmers at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

“Those boys are incredible,” the founding member of the College’s Board of Councilors says. And he should know. Corfman was an All-American Trojan his senior year for the 200 and 500 meter freestyle—a co-captain of the swim team in 1964 and captain of the water polo team in 1963.

He swam varsity for three years (he was not allowed on the team as a freshman) and his junior and senior year the USC swim team was NCAA champions.

Corfman admits he came to USC from his childhood town of Newport Beach “for the swimming program.” But he left the school a great believer in liberal arts education.

As proof, Corfman and his family established an endowed chair in USC College this winter.

“It is my belief that a majority of students need a well-rounded education for their undergraduate degree,” Corfman says from his home in Woodside, Calif. “The humanities offers that. It gives a person the ability to look at different things, and in some cases, view other cultures and religions. It helps build your thought process.”

This belief has clearly trickled down to his five children—four of whom have graduated from the College. His eldest daughter, Samantha, graduated magna cum laude with a double major in cinema and English. His son Jeff majored in economics, his daughter Lindsey majored in psychology and his third daughter, Cate, studied international relations. His fourth daughter, Amanda (who he refers to as “the Wildcat” for her unlikely choice of Arizona as her alma mater), is currently majoring in psychology.

He says that he gave the children some opportunities, but he also let them pick their own. As four of them chose USC, Corfman and his wife Carol “couldn’t have been any happier.”

Corfman is the vice president of Corfman Capital, a management company that runs or manages hedge funds. Prior to that, he was at Volpe, Welty, & Company, a Bay Area investment banking firm that, in addition to client portfolio management, has also taken biomedical and high tech companies public.

In his capacity on the Board of Councilors since 1997, Corfman says he has seen the College change “dramatically.” He attributes the positive changes to previous Dean Morton Schapiro and current Dean Joseph Aoun, who successfully expanded the quality of students and educational facilities.

“It was something I could not believe could happen in that time frame,” Corfman says.  “I thought it was a pipe dream. This turnaround is unheard of in academia and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down. The College is on a roll, which is really nice to see.”

The Corfman family also supports the College’s new USC Molecular and Computational Biology Building, and Jim is still an avid fan of the swim and water polo teams. As for why they chose to support an endowed chair?

“It’s a chicken and egg situation,” Corfman explains. “Buildings are nice, but the better professors there are, the better students. The quality of students needs a stable quality of professors and this endowed chair in the humanities might be a small help.”