Two USC Dornsife graduates have been honored with Alumni Service Awards for their longtime volunteer efforts on behalf of USC. Kelly Purvis ’82 and Jeffrey Smulyan ’69 were presented with their awards at the 79th Annual USC Alumni Awards on April 28.
Kelly Purvis '82
Purvis was awarded in part for her work as past president of the Trojan League Associates of San Diego County. She lives in Coronado, Calif., with her husband, Jim, an alumnus whom she met at USC, and three children, two of whom are USC graduates.
She has been a supporter and volunteer in the name of her alma mater beginning as an undergraduate, when she took advantage of the many available service opportunities. Purvis mentored students with the Joint Educational Project (JEP); served as financial director for Songfest, USC’s largest philanthropic musical event hosted by students; and volunteered with Swim with Mike, a scholarship fund for physically challenged athletes to which she still contributes.
“Volunteering was a meaningful component of my undergraduate experience,” she said. “It’s in the DNA of USC to serve and give.”
Purvis pursued a political science major after participating in the Washington, D.C. Semester Undergraduate Program. After graduation, she moved to the city and worked for a law firm covering legislation on Capitol Hill. Afterward, she returned to the West Coast and worked for California political fundraiser Dorsee Productions and volunteered on several political campaigns in her hometown of Coronado.
Throughout her life, Purvis has remained connected to USC, first through giving as a young alumna, and later by taking active roles in many USC organizations.
Purvis is a member of the Trojan League Associates of San Diego County since 1992 and has served in several leadership roles including president of the league from 2003 to 2005. Her affiliations have included the Alumnae Coordinating Council and Kappa Alpha Theta Mother’s Club, and she is a member of the USC Associates.
In 2008, Purvis received the USC Alumni Association’s Widney Alumni House Award, and in 2011, the Trojan League Associates of San Diego County dedicated a scholarship in her name.
“I really haven’t left USC,” Purvis said. “My role has just changed — from undergraduate to alumna to Trojan parent.”
Purvis remembers the day she took her son to his USC freshman summer orientation and helped him move into the same residence hall she lived in her freshman year. As she and her son walked down the hall’s stairs, she caught a glimpse of her husband Jim reading a newspaper in the lobby.
“For a second, time stood still, and I remembered meeting him for our first date,” she said. “He had been sitting on the couch, in that lobby, reading the paper.
“It’s good to be a Trojan.”
Jeffrey Smulyan '69
Smulyan is the founder and chairman of the board for Emmis Communications in Indianapolis, Ind. The broadcasting company owns and operates 22 radio stations and seven publications including Los Angeles Magazine. An adviser to Classical KUSC radio, Smulyan earned the Alumni Service Award for helping to expand the station to the San Francisco Bay Area, among other contributions
His childhood love of baseball and listening to games on the radio instilled in him a passion that drives his life’s work. As a young fan of the San Francisco Giants, he recalled the day in 1962 when his team tied the rival Los Angeles Dodgers during the battle for the National League pennant.
“I couldn’t get radio reception sitting inside on the couch,” he said. “So I went outside to my dad’s car, and just sat there listening to the game on the radio.”
When Smulyan came to USC in 1965, he decided on a double major in history and telecommunications.
“I felt that history gave me a sense of how the world operates and helped to satisfy my intellectual curiosity,” he said.
During his undergraduate years, through his classes, extracurricular activities and service to the university, Smulyan said he grew up scholastically and personally at USC. He took classes with late professors Doyce Nunis of history and Richard Stone of geology. He waited tables at a local sorority house with future film director Taylor Hackford (B.A., international relations, ’68) and USC Board of Trustee member and USC Alumni Association president Robert Padgett (B.A., history, ’68). From 1968 to 1969, Smulyan was the senior class president.
After graduation, he stayed with the Trojan Family to earn his law degree at the USC Gould School of Law, where he studied federal communications law. He moved back to Indianapolis after receiving his degree, and in 1980 founded Emmis Communications.
In 1989, his love of baseball came full circle when he led a group that purchased the Seattle Mariners.
Smulyan has won numerous awards for his work in the field of communications, including the National Association of Broadcasters’ National Radio Award in 2000 and the Golden Mike Award in 2006 from the Broadcasters’ Foundation in recognition of his charitable efforts. In 2004, he was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
Smulyan is a member of the USC Board of Trustees, USC Associates and board of councilors for the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the USC Gould School of Law. He is past president of the USC Alumni Club of Indianapolis, where he lives with his wife, Heather, and three children.
“Giving back to the university will always be very important to me,” he said. “I learned in law school that we all have core values as people. One of mine is my commitment to USC.”