Photo of Cordelia Sims Class of ’72, with her husband Emmett Walton Sims

Dornsife Alumna Gives Back

Soaring to New Heights

When she moved from Louisiana to Los Angeles, Cordelia Sims ’72 settled near USC’s University Park campus, a location she credits with sparking her desire to attend the school. Living so close, she couldn’t help but be drawn to the campus’ beauty and culture: “I would pass by USC all the time, and say, ‘Oh my goodness, I would love to go to that school.’”

Coming to the USC Dental School (now the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC) for dental exams and afterwards lingering around to soak up the striking architecture and creative energy further cemented her desire to attend.

Sims moved to California after attending Grambling State University for one year. She earned an associate degree at Los Angeles City College and then attended California State University, Los Angeles while working for the United States Postal Service.

After deciding definitively that she wanted to transfer to USC, she had to pass a three-hour entrance examination, the prospect of which flooded her with anxiety. “I was filled with doubt and didn’t really think I could pass it,” she said.

But her doubts proved to be unfounded. “When I received the acceptance letter, I was so happy!” Sims said. “Qualifying for USC was one of my greatest achievements. Everything in my life was right after that.”

Though she entered USC with the goal of becoming a teacher, Sims’ exposure to a variety of academic fields allowed her to develop different interests. She decided to change her major from education to sociology, even though this meant that many of her previous credits would not transfer, thus extending the time it would take her to graduate.

Sims attended school part-time while still working for the Postal Service at night, deferring classes some semesters to ensure she could pay back loans she had taken out from the USPS Federal Credit Union.

Upon receiving her degree after five years at USC, Sims applied for and was accepted to upper management in the Postal Service, where she worked in human resources administering social programs for the remainder of her career. She credits her sociology degree with helping her understand the interplay between demographic groups, communities and institutions for the projects she ran, which included recruitment and retention programs for members of minority groups.

After retiring and moving to Las Vegas, she reconnected with Emmett Sims, who had been her boyfriend while the two were in high school, and they eventually married. Cordelia says Emmett inspired her to engage more fully in philanthropy towards the causes and institutions that were important to them. In addition to supporting her husband’s alma mater, his fraternity and their church, Sims became an avid donor to the USC Dornsife Scholarship Fund. She relishes the chance to help others earn the life-changing opportunities a USC degree can provide.

Student Success 

“I love people, and I love to see people achieve,” she says.

Sims also credits her sociology degree for helping her see the bigger picture of what an investment in education can do on a societal level. “Educating individuals is key for the betterment of all of us,” she said. “It socializes individuals and makes for stronger communities. It enriches society as a whole.”

This dedication to education helped motivate Sims to create a planned gift to USC Dornsife that is dedicated to scholarships. This will ensure she leaves a legacy of philanthropy that she hopes will inspire others.

“When I leave this Earth, I want people to say, ‘She helped someone get an education.’ Think of how much value you have if you can help someone else go to school.”

Sims remains thankful for the opportunities USC Dornsife provided her and wants to pass along those same opportunities to others.

“I stand on the shoulders of all of those people who helped me along,” she said.

With her gifts to USC Dornsife, Cordelia Sims is offering her own shoulders to support future generations of Trojans, ensuring they can reap the same educational benefits that she did.



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