Irani Pledges Support for Residential College

USC Trustee and USC Dornsife alumnus Ray Irani’s $20 million gift endows a student community that integrates living and learning as well as faculty chairs and student support.
BySusan L. Wampler

USC Trustee Ray Irani Ph.D. ’57 has pledged $20 million to the university, of which $15 million will create the Ray Irani Residential College at the new USC Village. The additional $5 million will endow two faculty chairs and establish a student support fund.

Irani College will be a supportive community that integrates living, learning and extracurricular activities for up to 320 students. It is one of nine new residential colleges being planned for USC Village. In all, the residence halls at these new residential colleges will add as many as 2,700 student beds to the University Park Campus and increase the number of students in USC-owned housing by nearly 40 percent.

The gift is only the latest contribution to USC from Irani, who obtained his doctorate in chemistry from USC Dornsife and has long supported the university.

“As a trustee, donor, alumnus and distinguished faculty member, Ray Irani has been a pivotal partner — and beloved member — of the USC community for more than six decades,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “Dr. Irani’s most recent gift helps assure that the USC Village will provide the world-class living and learning environment that our outstanding students deserve, while nurturing their intellectual, creative and personal growth.”

The $650 million USC Village retail-residential project is the most ambitious construction effort in the university’s history and south Los Angeles’ largest-ever economic development project. Set to open in 2017, it will serve as a pinnacle of student life, with spaces for study, advising and recreation in addition to housing. It also will feature shops and restaurants for students and the community.

Located directly north of University Park campus, across Jefferson Boulevard, the 1.25-million-square-foot USC Village project will blend and connect seamlessly with the rest of the campus.

Irani College is the second residential college to be named and funded at USC Village. A 2014 gift from the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation, chaired by USC Trustee Kathleen McCarthy ’57, endowed McCarthy Honors College.

Irani’s gift also establishes the Ghada Irani Chair in the Keck School of Medicine of USC, named for his wife, and the Ray Irani Chair in a school or department to be designated later. A million-dollar student support fund rounds out the gift.

“I believe residential colleges are invaluable to helping students acclimate to and make the most of their university experience — especially students coming from other countries and cultures,” said Irani, who moved from Lebanon to Los Angeles at age 18 to attend graduate school at USC.

Referring to the funding for scholarships and chairs, he added, “It is crucial to support future generations of innovation by providing needed resources to diligent, creative students — as well as to the exemplary professors who educate them while advancing their own vital research.”

Irani began his career as a research scientist at the Monsanto Co. After positions at Diamond Shamrock Corp. and the Olin Corp., he joined Occidental Petroleum Corp. in 1983 and quickly ascended to become the company’s president. Under his leadership, Occidental expanded to become the nation’s fourth largest oil and gas company. He retired from the company as chairman and CEO in 2013.

Irani’s other accomplishments include holding 150 patents and publishing more than 50 technical papers. In 2011, he was awarded the designation of chevalier of the French National Order of the Legion of Honor, the highest award bestowed by the French government on citizens and foreigners.

He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2012. That same year, he was appointed the Judge Widney Professor of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at USC Dornsife and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. His previous gifts to USC include naming Ray R. Irani Hall on the University Park campus.

In addition to benefiting students and bringing the ambitious USC Village closer to fruition, Irani’s latest gift significantly boosts the Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multiyear effort that seeks to raise $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand its positive impact on the community and world. Just four and a half years after its launch, the campaign has raised more than $4 billion.