Past Recipients

May 2019

Wanda M. Austin, Doctor of Humane Letters, is the first woman and the first African American to lead USC. Building on her years of distinguished service as a USC trustee, she reaffirmed the university’s commitment to excellence at a crucial time in its history, and helped lay the foundation for a significant shift in culture that emphasizes our highest ideals of compassion, inclusion, and equality. As CEO of The Aerospace Corporation—once again, the first woman and the first African American to serve in the role—she directed thousands of employees in developing science and technology to advance the mission of our country’s space program. She is also a noted expert on strategic leadership and systems engineering, and has helped shape national policy as an appointee to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. An alumna of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, Dr. Austin is a passionate champion of STEM education and a longstanding mentor to students and colleagues alike. In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the scientific community, she was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Arthur C. Bartner, Doctor of Music, a distinguished conductor and music educator, has set a national standard for collegiate bands during nearly five decades as director of the Trojan Marching Band. Under Bartner’s direction, the band has become The Spirit of Troy, serving as musical ambassador to global audiences at Olympic Games, the Academy Awards and the Grammys. Thanks to Bartner’s leadership, the Trojan Marching Band has appeared in well over 125 movies and television shows. Its collaborations with the rock group Fleetwood Mac have resulted in two platinum albums. In 2006, Bartner was awarded the prestigious Lowell Mason Fellow Award by the National Association of Music Educators. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012. Last year, the Trojan Marching Band’s new facility was named in Bartner’s honor, and the Trojan football team established the Dr. Arthur C. Bartner Trojan Commitment Award for dedication.

Mikhail Baryshnikov, Doctor of Fine Arts, a legendary artist in classical and contemporary dance, has inspired audiences around the world. He has danced over 100 roles and has performed with American Ballet Theatre, the Mariinsky Ballet, New York City Ballet, and the Royal Ballet, bringing to life some of the most iconic characters in classical ballet. An accomplished actor from stage to cinema, Baryshnikov received a Drama Desk Award, and a Tony Award nomination for Metamorphosis. His performance in The Turning Point earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. He is currently touring the play Brodsky/Baryshnikov, directed by Alvis Hermanis, and is collaborating with Jan Fabre on “Not Once,” an art installation with film. Baryshnikov’s awards include the Kennedy Center Honors, the National Medal of Honor, and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale International Arts Award. He has earned the rank of Officer of the French Legion of Honor. He is founder and artistic director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City.

Karen Bass, Doctor of Humane Letters, the first African-American woman to serve as speaker of any state legislative body, continues to open new doors in her second decade in elected office. In January, she was sworn in as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. She serves as chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and the House Foreign Affairs committee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. A lifelong Angeleno, Bass served as an emergency room physician assistant at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center early in her career. She later earned a Master of Social Work degree from the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. When a wave of crack cocaine struck Los Angeles in 1990, Bass established the Community Coalition and created a new way for neighbors to confront social and economic issues at the local level. As a California State Assemblywoman, Bass’ bipartisan negotiation efforts earned her and three other California legislative leaders the 2010 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. First elected to the U.S. Congress in 2011, Bass has represented California’s 37th Congressional District, which includes the University Park Campus, since 2013. In that time, Bass has helped shape policy in child welfare, trade policy with the continent of Africa and criminal justice reform. Rep. Bass delivered the commencement address.

Edythe Broad, Doctor of Humane Letters, philanthropist, educational benefactor and patron of the arts, Edythe Broad has elevated Los Angeles’ cultural profile with generous and consistent support of the LA Opera, the Los Angeles Public Library, the Broad Stage and other arts organizations. The driving force behind the couple’s philanthropy to the opera, Broad and her husband, Eli, have donated $14 million to the LA Opera, including support for its historic production of the Ring cycle. Edythe Broad inspired her husband’s love of contemporary art, and together they founded The Broad contemporary art museum, which offers free general admission and has welcomed more than 2.5 million visitors since it opened in 2015. The Broad features one of the most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art in the world, and appeals to a young, diverse audience. A graduate of Detroit public schools, Broad is devoted to uplifting public schools and the students they serve through initiatives such as The Broad Center, which helps develop education leaders. Broad is also a longtime supporter of the Los Angeles Public Library, where she endowed Student Zones, which offer after-school homework help to homeless and other underserved students. The Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC is dedicated to early detection of disease, improved therapies and faster recovery times.

Eli Broad, Doctor of Humane Letters, an unrivaled entrepreneur and humanitarian, has expanded access to the arts, improved public schools in high-need communities and invested more than $800 million to fight life-threatening illnesses. He is the only person to have founded two Fortune 500 companies in two different industries. As a co-founder of Kaufman and Broad Homebuilding Co., today known as KB Home, he helped bring home ownership within reach for young families. His leadership of SunAmerica reinvigorated retirement savings for millions. Educated in the public school system, Broad created generous initiatives to support public school leadership and performance, especially in traditionally underserved areas. Together with his wife Edythe, Broad built a collection of contemporary art that includes 2,000 works. A selection of works from the collection are exhibited at The Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles. Over their lifetimes, the Broads have donated more than $4 billion to causes that help create a healthier and more hopeful world.

Emery Brown, Doctor of Science, statistician, anesthesiologist and neuroscientist, has deepened our understanding of the human brain and expanded the boundaries of neuroscience. With infinite curiosity, Brown has used a statistical approach to create numerous breakthroughs in the field of anesthesiology. He has built new paradigms for monitoring patients under general anesthesia and has defined more accurately the brain’s response to anesthetic drugs. By deciphering the workings of anesthesia, Brown has improved the patient experience at hospitals everywhere. His statistics research has also enhanced our understanding of how the brain transmits information, and provided insight into the way neurons adapt and evolve. Brown served on President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative Working Group. He has received an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship in Applied Mathematics, the American Society of Anesthesiologists Excellence in Research Award and the Dickson Prize in Science. Brown is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors. Brown is the first African-American, the first statistician and the first anesthesiologist to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Medicine. Brown is the Edward Hood Taplin Professor of Medical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Warren M. Zapol Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Cindy Hensley McCain, Doctor of Humane Letters, has dedicated her life to improving the lives of those less fortunate both in the United States and around the world. As the chairman of the board of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University, she oversees the organization’s focus on advancing character-driven global leadership based on security, economic opportunity, freedom and human dignity. McCain also chairs the McCain Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council. This is an issue she cares deeply about and is committed to ending human trafficking and supporting victims in Arizona, the United States and around the world. Through her work with the McCain Institute, several partnerships have been formed with anti-trafficking organizations working on solving various aspects of the problem. She also serves as co-chair of the Arizona Human Trafficking Council. McCain also serves on the board of directors of Project CURE and on the advisory boards of Too Small To Fail and Warriors and Quiet Waters. McCain holds an undergraduate degree in Education and a Master’s in Special Education from USC and is a member of the USC Rossier School of Education Board of Councilors. McCain is the chairman of her family’s business, Hensley Beverage Co., one of the largest Anheuser-Busch distributors in the nation. She is the wife of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. Together, they have four children.


May 2018

Charlie BeckDoctor of Humane Letters, has served as the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department for nearly a decade, steadfastly maintaining the safety and security of the second-largest city in the United States. Managing more than 13,000 officers and personnel, he oversees a vital public institution that protects the nearly 4 million people who live and work in Los Angeles. As chief of police, he has been a catalyst for the department’s innovative reform efforts, while continuing to refine the strategies that affirm its standing as the most progressive law enforcement agency in the nation. Under his guidance, the department has implemented visionary policies such as the Community Safety Partnership program and the reclamation of MacArthur Park. An esteemed civic leader, Chief Beck links three generations of Los Angeles police officers in a tradition of service that includes his father and two of his children. His career stands in testament to his extraordinary gift for building diverse coalitions through a combination of conventional policing methods and inventive community outreach initiatives. For four decades, he has modeled integrity and resilience for all the women and men of the LAPD, while mentoring countless law enforcement officers. Indeed, his insightful leadership has effected meaningful institutional change, furthered the cause of justice, and revitalized hope in our neighborhoods.

Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. (Ret.)Doctor of Humane Letters, possesses an unparalleled record of service to our nation as a trailblazing aviator, astronaut, and civil servant.  A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he served as a test pilot before NASA tapped him to fly the space shuttle.  After logging nearly 700 hours as a shuttle pilot and mission commander, he was later appointed to the position of NASA Administrator—making him the first African-American to lead the agency on a permanent basis.  During his tenure, he oversaw NASA’s transition from shuttle missions to the advancement of innovative technologies for deep space voyages. General Bolden’s sterling military career encompasses 34 years of service in the United States Marine Corps.  He flew more than 100 combat missions in Southeast Asia, and later commanded American troops in Kuwait during Operation Desert Thunder.  These collective accomplishments earned him numerous accolades, including the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. A distinguished USC trustee and Viterbi School alumnus, he is an inductee of the Astronaut Hall of Fame and the National Aviation Hall of Fame, as well as a prominent advocate for veterans’ education.  Indeed, his selfless sense of patriotism has inspired generations of Trojans.

Jennifer A. Doudna, Doctor of Science, an internationally renowned biochemist, scholar, and inventor—has dramatically expanded the boundaries of genetic research. In developing innovative techniques for genomic editing, she has advanced one of the most significant discoveries in the history of biology.  Her leadership helped establish the “CRISPR revolution,” a field of biomedical research that uses an RNA-guided protein found in bacteria to create a technology known as CRISPR/Cas9.  This mechanism can be used to edit the DNA of any organism, and has transformed investigations into treatments for diseases such as HIV, sickle cell anemia, and muscular dystrophy. Dr. Doudna brings tremendous integrity to the discussion surrounding the ethics of scientific progress.  Her book, A Crack in Creation, addresses the societal and ethical implications of gene editing.  She is a professor of chemistry and molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, as well as a member the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She is also the recipient of several prestigious honors, including the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Heineken Prize, and the Japan Prize, as her groundbreaking work promises to radically accelerate the pace of scientific inquiry.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Doctor of Science, is a pioneering physician, oncologist, and author who has redefined our public discourse on human health. A profoundly influential voice in the scientific community, he is best known for his book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize. His published works exhibit an outstanding literary skill that has left an indelible mark on our culture, as The Emperor of All Maladies has been adapted into a documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns, and was included among Time magazine’s 100 best nonfiction books of the past century. Dr. Mukherjee’s achievements as a writer and educator build upon his career as a renowned medical scholar. His groundbreaking studies into the composition and behavior of cancer cells have pushed the boundaries of modern medicine. His innovative research signals a paradigm shift in cancer pathology, and has enabled the development of treatments that reach beyond the pharmaceutical model toward new biological and environmental therapies. Serving as a professor of medicine at Columbia University and as a staff cancer physician at the university’s medical center, Dr. Mukherjee generates hope for countless patients and families around the world, while revolutionizing our blueprint for healing. Dr. Mukherjee delivered the commencement address.

Forest WhitakerDoctor of Fine Arts, renowned actor, director, producer, and social activist, ranks among the most acclaimed artists in cinema.  His performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland earned him an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a SAG Award, and a Golden Globe for Best Actor.  In 1988, he won best actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his role as musician Charlie Parker in the biopic Bird, directed by Clint Eastwood.  He received the International Critics’ Award at the Toronto Film Festival for his 1993 directorial debut, Strapped, and served as executive producer for the Peabody Award-winning documentary series Brick City.  His company, Significant Productions, steadfastly supports young filmmakers.  The venture produced Fruitvale Station, director Ryan Coogler’s (MFA ’11) film debut, which garnered numerous coveted awards. Over the past decade, Mr. Whitaker has raised awareness of the human cost of conflict and violence, while building pathways to peace for people around the world.  He founded the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative to support reconciliation in communities impacted by conflict on three continents.  Mr. Whitaker, a USC alumnus, has also collaborated extensively with the United Nations, serving as a UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, a member of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group, and the co-founder and chair of the International Institute for Peace.


May 2017

Suzanne Dworak-Peck, Doctor of Humane Letters, has dramatically improved the lives of individuals and families who reside among the most vulnerable and underserved populations. Her visionary gift of $60 million to name and endow the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work demonstrated her unwavering commitment to advancing social justice, as well as supporting the compassionate individuals following in her footsteps. Dworak-Peck has served as president of the International Federation of Social Workers, as well as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), enhancing the reach and scope of both organizations. Her leadership extends to her efforts as the first and only global ambassador for social work in our culture.  Her peers have honored her with numerous accolades — perhaps most notably, she was named a Social Work Pioneer by the NASW and the Social Worker of the Year by the group’s California chapter. Currently serving as chair of the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work’s Board of Councilors, she has earned the admiration of her Trojan Family through her extraordinary leadership and transformative generosity.

Will Ferrell, Doctor of Humane Letters, a world-renowned actor, producer and humanitarian, has lifted the spirits of millions around the world. Throughout his acclaimed career, he has demonstrated the ability to create enduring, imaginative characters that have resonated with audiences. For seven seasons, Ferrell led the cast of NBC’s late-night institution, “Saturday Night Live,” where he established his fearless brand of comedy. He has starred in, written and produced many feature films, including “Elf” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” and has earned accolades for his funny performances. A proud Trojan alumnus, Ferrell is also known for his commitment to philanthropy. He is a longtime benefactor of Cancer for College, an organization founded by his USC fraternity brother that awards college scholarships to cancer survivors. He has also lent his support to charitable initiatives on campus, such as the annual Swim With Mike fundraiser for physically challenged athletes. Promoting new, diverse voices in comedy, he also launched the groundbreaking website Funny or Die, along with his longtime collaborator, Adam McKay. Chief among Ferrell’s honors is the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor — a testament to his impact on the nation’s comedic landscape. Mr. Ferrell delivered the commencement address.

David D. Ho, Doctor of Science, is the founding scientific director and chief executive officer of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, a world-renowned biomedical research institute. Ho has been at the forefront of AIDS research for nearly four decades. His studies unveiled the dynamic nature of HIV replication in vivo and revolutionized basic understanding of the disease. This knowledge led him to champion the groundbreaking approach of combination antiretroviral therapy that resulted in unprecedented control of HIV among patients. To date, more than 14 million patients worldwide have benefitted from combination antiretroviral therapy. As a major driving force in the fight to end the disease, Ho has received numerous honors and awards for his scientific accomplishments from his academic peers, national governments and the public at large. He is the recipient of a Presidential Citizens Medal, as well as 13 honorary doctorates. In addition to his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, he was recognized as Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” in 1996.

Gary Michelson, Doctor of Humane Letters, is a distinguished orthopaedic spinal surgeon and inventor who has dedicated himself to improving the lives of others. Discontent with traditional surgical procedures, he spent decades developing implants, surgical processes and instruments that enable doctors to successfully cure a vastly greater proportion of spinal conditions. His technological breakthroughs revolutionized the medical community’s approach to spinal surgery by making it safer, faster, more effective and less expensive. Michelson stands among the world’s most influential and prolific medical innovators with nearly 1,000 patents issued or pending worldwide. In recognition of his work, he earned the rare distinction of being inducted into both the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the National Academy of Inventors. He also remains a passionate philanthropist, supporting far-reaching initiatives in areas such as medical research, bioscience, technology, animal welfare and education. Combining several of these interests, he and his wife, Alya, have partnered with USC to create the Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience — a research stronghold aimed at accelerating the development of scientific innovations that benefit society as a whole.

Dame Helen Mirren, Doctor of Fine Arts, is one of the entertainment industry’s most well-known and respected actresses with an extensive career that spans theater, film and television. She is the only actress to have portrayed both Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II on screen, receiving an Academy Award for her performance as the latter in “The Queen.” Her role as relentless Jane Tennison in the television series “Prime Suspect” also received widespread acclaim. Mirren has received numerous honors for her acting, including multiple BAFTA Awards, Emmy Awards and Golden Globes. In addition, the onstage reprise of her performance as Elizabeth II in “The Audience” generated rave reviews on the West End and on Broadway, garnering her an Olivier Award and a Tony Award. With each new role, she affirms her dedication to tackling a diverse range of parts that showcases her distinguished onscreen presence and sensitive interpretations of complex characters.

Mark Ridley-Thomas, Doctor of Humane Letters, has distinguished himself for more than 25 years as a strong advocate for millions of people through his work as a local and state legislator. He presently serves as chairman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, a board member of L.A. Care and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a member of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission. Throughout his career in government, he has worked to increase civic engagement in local communities, improve access to high-quality health care, and provide critical services to the underserved and the homeless, among other achievements. Prior to his election to the Board of Supervisors, he served in the California State Senate, the California State Assembly and the Los Angeles City Council, each time assuming key leadership positions and guiding political caucuses that addressed a broad range of economic, educational and public safety issues. Ridley-Thomas, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, is widely regarded as the foremost advocate of neighborhood participation in government decision-making.


May 2016

Larry Ellison, Doctor of Humane Letters, the founder of the technology giant, Oracle Corporation. In 2014, he stepped aside as CEO to become the executive chairman and chief technology officer of the company. Ellison is an avid athlete who races sailboats, flies planes, plays tennis and runs one of the world’s largest tennis tournaments. He sails with Oracle Team USA and won the America’s Cup in 2010 and 2013. In the tennis world, Ellison acquired the BNP Paribas Open, the largest combined Association of Tennis Professionals’ World Tour and Women’s Tennis Association’s tour event in the world. A philanthropist, Ellison founded The Lawrence Ellison Foundation whose mission includes supporting basic biomedical research on age-related diseases and disabilities. In 2014, Ellison teamed up with animal-welfare advocates to create a wildlife refuge, rehabilitation and education center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Mr. Ellison delivered the commencement address.

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Doctor of Fine Arts, an Academy Award-winning Mexican filmmaker, won his second consecutive Academy Award for Best Director for the epic story of revenge and survival, “The Revenant,” making him one of only three directors to ever win consecutive Oscars and the first to do so in 65 years. In 2015, Iñárritu won three Academy Awards for directing, co-writing and co-producing the dark comedy “Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” about an aging cinema superhero launching a Broadway show. Iñárritu also is known for the films “Amores Perros,” “21 Grams,” and “Babel,” which earned seven Academy Award nominations and the Best Director Award at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Iñárritu is the first Mexican filmmaker to have been nominated for Best Director and Best Producer in the history of the Academy Awards.

Jackie Lacey, Doctor of Laws, was elected Los Angeles County District Attorney in 2012 as the first woman and first African American to the office since its establishment in 1850. Lacey created the office’s Conviction Review Unit and the Elder Financial Abuse Outreach Campaign, and formed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Crimes Rollout Team. A member of the USC Gould School of Law Board of Councilors and 1982 alumna of the school, Lacey’s awards and honors include the Trailblazer Award from the National Black Prosecutors Association; the Benito Juarez Attorney of the Year Award from the Mexican American Bar Association; and the Ernestine Stahlhut Award from the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles. Lacey is also credited with leading the effort to divert people with a mental illness out of jail and into treatment.

Mark Stevens, Doctor of Humane Letters, who has served on the USC Board of Trustees since 2001, is the managing partner of his family investment office, S-Cubed Capital, and is a special limited partner and former managing partner of Sequoia Capital, a leading venture capital firm that has backed Silicon Valley icons such as Apple, Cisco Systems, Electronic Arts, Nvidia, Yahoo!, and Google. Mark is also a director of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation (USOPF) and an owner and executive board member of the Golden State Warriors basketball team. Since 2011, Mark has served as a trustee at Menlo School and is the co-chair of its capital campaign. Mark holds a B.S. in electrical engineering and a B.A. in economics (both magna cum laude, 1981), and an M.S. in computer engineering (1984) – all from USC. He earned an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1989.

Mary Stevens, Doctor of Humane Letters, worked for 13 years in the commercial real estate brokerage business, lastly as a vice president at Cornish & Carey Commercial in Santa Clara. Currently, she serves as a co-chair of the Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton) Spring Auction and is on the Alzheimer’s Association’s Part The Cloud Committee that serves to advance research and understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. She has been a member of the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees since 2012. She received a B.S. in finance from Santa Clara University in 1984, and she is a former member of the Santa Clara University Board of Fellows.

Selim Zilkha, Doctor of Humane Letters, a member of the Keck Board of Overseers for the Keck School of Medicine of USC, is the co-owner of Zilkha Biomass Energy whose wood pellets replace coal in coal plants. He also owns Laetitia Vineyard and Winery. Born in Baghdad, Zilkha grew up in Lebanon and Egypt until his family moved in 1941 to the United States. After graduating from Williams College in New York, Zilkha served in the U.S. Army until the end of World War II. Zilkha then worked for his father in international finance and in 1960 founded Mothercare, a chain of stores focused on helping mothers with their babies. He sold the chain 22 years later and launched an oil and gas exploration company, Zilkha Energy Company. In 1998, Zilkha sold that and started Zilkha Renewable Energy, a top wind power developer in the United States until its sale in 2007. Zilkha has said that while he has lived a successful and varied life, his legacy is Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, dedicated to researching Alzheimer’s disease and named in his honor.


May 2015

Pete Carroll, Doctor of Humane Letters, the head football coach of the Seattle Seahawks who led his team to Super Bowl victory in 2014. Carroll returned USC football to national prominence during his nine-year tenure as head coach at the university. His “Always Compete” philosophy has led to a successful four-decade career in football. Carroll is one of just a few coaches in football history to have won a Super Bowl and a national college championship. He is also the founder of A Better LA and A Better Seattle, two gang-violence prevention and community-building organizations that empower inner-city youth and forge relationships with service organizations.

Kamala Harris, Doctor of Laws, the 32nd attorney general of California. As the state’s chief lawyer, Harris has worked tirelessly on a range of critical issues. Her efforts to target and dismantle the operations of a major human trafficking ring have protected people all over the world. In addition to combating transnational gangs that traffic human beings, guns, and drugs, Harris has aggressively prosecuted mortgage-related fraud and crime during California’s financial crisis. Additionally, she has promoted the adoption of more technology in law enforcement and the incorporation of data-driven policing. Harris, who served two terms as district attorney of San Francisco, is also the first female, first African-American, and first South Asian attorney general in California’s history.

Mellody Hobson, Doctor of Humane Letters, president of the Chicago-based money management firm Ariel Investments. Hobson is also chair of the board of trustees for Ariel Investment Trust. The firm has over $10 billion in assets under management.  Hobson is passionate about investor education and has become a nationally recognized voice on financial literacy. She is a regular contributor and analyst for CBS News, the Tom Joyner Morning Show and Black Enterprise magazine. She is also the spokesperson for two reports that examine investing patterns among minorities – the Ariel/Hewitt Study: 401(k) Plans in Living Color and the Ariel Black Investor Survey. Hobson’s active involvement in professional and civic institutions extends beyond finance. She is the chairwoman of DreamWorks Animation and a director of The Estée Lauder Companies and Starbucks Corporation. She is also the chairwoman of After School Matters, a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality programs outside of school for Chicago teens. Hobson serves on the boards of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and The Chicago Public Education Fund; she was also appointed emeritus trustee of the Sundance Institute. Ms. Hobson delivered the commencement address.

Leonard Schaeffer, Doctor of Humane Letters, a policy expert in health care financing who is considered one of the most transformative health care executives in the nation, holds the Judge Robert Maclay Widney Chair as a professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy. He is the founding chairman and CEO of WellPoint, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, and a senior adviser to TPG Capital, a private equity firm. Through scholarly and philanthropic contributions, Schaeffer has dedicated his life to advancing health policy research. He established the USC Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics and continuously brings together policymakers and industry leaders to solve health care’s most demanding challenges.

Michael Tilson Thomas, Doctor of Music, an award-winning conductor, pianist and composer. Thomas has won numerous Grammy Awards. In 2009, President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts. Thomas has been the music director of the San Francisco Symphony for 20 years. He founded the New World Symphony and created the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. His compositions are inspired by a range of sources, from Anne Frank’s diary to Emily Dickinson’s poetry. Thomas received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the USC Thornton School of Music. He was named a Judge Widney Professor of Music at USC in 2014.

Ada Yonath, Doctor of Science, a Nobel Prize-winner whose work in observing and documenting the ribosome has significantly advanced understanding of its structure and refocused scholarly discussions about it all over the world. Yonath has also won the Wolf Prize in Chemistry and the Massry Prize, both considered precursors to the Nobel. Yonath has contributed significant research on the effectiveness of antibiotics. She also pioneered the methodology of cryocrystallography, a technique for examining rapid-frozen protein crystals that decreases the adverse effects of radiation that was previously inherent to X-ray crystallography. Yonath is director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.


May 2014

Marc Benioff, Doctor of Humane Letters, is the visionary founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of, which has become the leader in enterprise cloud computing.  A 30-year veteran of the software industry, he stands among the pioneers of cloud computing, and has received widespread recognition for his tremendous success as an innovator and industry leader.  In 2000, he launched the Foundation, which established the “1-1-1 model” of integrated corporate philanthropy.  Mr. Benioff received his bachelor’s degree from USC and serves on the university’s Board of Trustees.  Mr. Benioff delivered the commencement address.

B. Wayne Hughes, Doctor of Business Administration, is a business leader and USC alumnus and trustee, who founded Public Storage, the largest self-storage company in the world, which he grew from one site in Southern California to more than 2,200 facilities in 38 states and seven Western European nations.

Shonda L. Rhimes, Doctor of Fine Arts, is a USC alumna and the creator and executive producer of several acclaimed ABC series, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice” and “Scandal,” and has earned widespread recognition for her commitment to featuring empowered characters who reflect the diversity of our society.

Phillip A. Sharp, Doctor of Science, is a Nobel laureate whose advances in molecular biology and biochemistry include the discovery of “split genes,” which revealed that a given gene could be present in DNA as separated segments — a landmark achievement that has advanced our understanding of the genetic causes of cancer and other diseases. Sharp is Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

James H. Simons, Doctor of Humane Letters, is a mathematician and philanthropist, whose scientific work in geometry and topology led to the establishment of Chern-Simons invariants, a theory that has profoundly influenced theoretical physics. He founded Renaissance Technologies, one of the most successful hedge funds in the world, and the Simons Foundation, which advances research in mathematics and the basic sciences.

Twyla Tharp, Doctor of Fine Arts, is one of America’s preeminent dancers and choreographers, who has choreographed more than 160 works that include dances, television specials, Hollywood films, full-length ballets, Broadway shows and figure skating programs. She received the 2004 National Medal of Arts.


May 2013

Jimmy Iovine, Doctor of Music, has collaborated with some of the music industry’s brightest stars as a producer. He’s brought many of those performers to national attention as co-founder of Interscope Records, cultivated new talent as a mentor on American Idol and serves as co-founder of the audio gear company Beats by Dr. Dre. Mr. Iovine delivered the commencement address.

John Gurdon, Doctor of Science, has led significant advances in the field of developmental biology, particularly through his groundbreaking work in nuclear transplantation and cloning. Sir Gurdon’s discoveries have transformed the understanding of how cells and organisms develop and led to major medical breakthroughs. For these singular contributions, he was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

David Henry Hwang, Doctor of Literature, has distinguished himself as a renowned playwright, screenwriter and librettist. He is best known as author of the award-winning play M. Butterfly and also has written Golden Child, Yellow Face and his most recent work, Chinglish. In addition, President Bill Clinton appointed him to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, a position he held from 1994 to 2001.

Glorya Kaufman, Doctor of Humane Letters, has established a stellar profile as an arts benefactor and has earned an eminent position among the world’s leading champions of dance. In 2012, she committed one of the largest gifts in the history of American dance to create and endow the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance and construct the Glorya Kaufman International Dance Center at USC.

Edward P. Roski Jr., Doctor of Humane Letters, serves as chairman and CEO of Majestic Realty Co., one of the oldest and largest privately held real estate companies in the United States. He has made several contributions to the surrounding region as a civic leader and as co-owner of the Los Angeles Kings, Lakers and the Staples Center. He is a dedicated USC alumnus who has played a key role for the university through his work as chairman of the USC Board of Trustees.

Gayle Garner Roski, Doctor of Humane Letters, is a longtime USC supporter and devoted patron of the arts. She is a talented artist whose watercolors have been exhibited extensively in museums and galleries throughout the world. Together with her husband, Edward, she provided a major gift to USC’s fine arts school, which was renamed the USC Roski School of Fine Arts in her honor.


May 2012

Christiane Amanpour, Doctor of Humane Letters, is global affairs anchor at ABC News and chief international correspondent for CNN International. Ms. Amanpour delivered the commencement address.

Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire, Doctor of Humane Letters, was force commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda during the country’s 1994 genocide. Currently serving as a Canadian senator, he was credited with saving more than 32,000 lives in Rwanda.

Dana Dornsife, Doctor of Humane Letters, is a USC benefactor and international humanitarian. Together with her husband, David, she provided the single-largest gift in the university’s history – a transformative contribution that named the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 2011.

David Dornsife ’65, Doctor of Humane Letters, is a USC trustee, whose family’s dedication to advancing the university’s work in neuroscience and medicine dates back several decades. He served as chairman of the board of the Herrick Corp., and vice president of the Hedco Foundation, which supports health and education.

Victoria Hale, Doctor of Science, is a pharmaceuticals scientist and social entrepreneur. She founded Medicines360, a nonprofit company that develops medicine for women and children, and The Institute for OneWorld Health, which developed a cure for black fever and technology that reduced the cost of malaria drugs.

Armas C. “Mike” Markkula MS ’66, Doctor of Science, is an entrepreneur, innovator and engineer. He played a key role in the founding and growth of Apple Inc., having served as an early investor, adviser and CEO.

Julie Mork, Doctor of Humane Letters, is a philanthropic leader, champion of education, and advocate of youth and visually impaired children. She and her family gave the single-largest contribution for undergraduate scholarships in USC’s history and provided the naming gift for the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science in 2005.

John Mork ’70, Doctor of Humane Letters, is a USC trustee and CEO of Energy Corp. of America. He is a member of the Chief Executives Organization, the World Presidents’ Organization and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Board of Councilors.


May 2011

Steven A. Ballmer, Doctor of Humane Letters. Chief executive officer of Microsoft Corporation and the first business manager hired by Bill Gates. Mr. Ballmer delivered the commencement address.

Ann E. Dunwoody, Doctor of Humane Letters. Current commanding general of the U.S. Army Material Command (AMC), one of the largest commands in the army with more than 70,000 employees. In 2008 Ms. Dunwoody became the first woman in the history of the U.S. military to achieve four-star rank.

Ming Hsieh, Doctor of Humane Letters. USC trustee and alumnus who is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Mr. Hsieh earned two degrees from USC before founding AMAX Technology in 1987 and Cogent Systems in 1990. He has distinguished himself as a dedicated supporter of the Viterbi School of Engineering through his naming of the USC Department of Electrical Engineering and as a visionary proponent of collaborative research through the creation of the Ming Hsieh Institute for Research on Engineering-Medicine for Cancer.

Girish Karnad, Doctor of Humane Letters. One of a group of writers who collectively reshaped Indian theater as a national institution in the second half of the twentieth century. He has received numerous honors for his work, including the Jnanpith Award, India’s most prestigious literary award.

Albie Sachs, Doctor of Humane Letters. Served for 15 years as a justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Mr. Sachs has a long history of human rights activism, and was at various times imprisoned, exiled and attacked for his work on behalf of the unjustly persecuted. During his time on the court, Mr. Sachs helped abolish the death penalty and overturn the laws criminalizing homosexuality. In 2005, he wrote the opinion in the court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

Harald zur Hausen, Doctor of Humane Letters. German virologist who discovered the role that the human papilloma virus (HPV) plays in causing cervical cancer. His discovery led to the development of the HPV vaccine, introduced in 2006. His contributions to the advancement of science earned him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008.


May 2010

William J. Bratton, Doctor of Laws. L.A.’s former police chief. Law enforcement executive whose innovations and leadership reduced crime in three major American cities. Builder of bridges between the L.A.P.D. and the city’s diverse communities.

John Hood, Doctor of Humane Letters. Visionary leader in higher education and in global business. Former vice chancellor of the University of Auckland and of the University of Oxford.

Ting-Kai Li, Doctor of Science. Professor, physician, and pioneering scientist. Influential scholar and national health advisor who transformed societal attitudes about alcoholism as the first researcher to demonstrate its genetic roots.

Festus G. Mogae, Doctor of Humane Letters. Past president of Botswana. Tireless leader in building his country into a model of democracy and good governance, and in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Doctor of Music. Preeminent composer, conductor, and advocate of contemporary music. Principal conductor and artistic advisor of the London-based Philharmonia Orchestra. Former music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.


May 2009

Anita K. Jones, Doctor of Science. Professor, computer scientist, and former federal director of defense research and engineering, Jones’ insightful leadership paved the way for USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

Elena Poniatowska, Doctor of Literature. Renowned journalist and influential and award-winning author, Poniatowska is a steadfast champion of the marginalized and underserved peoples of Mexico.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Doctor of Humane Letters. Visionary leader, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and internationally known actor, Schwarzenegger is California’s 38th governor. He delivered the commencement address.

Frances Wu, Doctor of Humane Letters. Social worker and founder of the Chinese-American Golden Age Association, Wu is a long-time advocate for older Americans and a distinguished USC alumna and benefactor.


May 2008

Sweet Alice Harris, Doctor of Humane Letters. Founder and executive director of Parents of Watts, Sweet Alice Harris has dedicated her life to mentoring youth and providing assistance to people who are disadvantaged or underserved.

Robert Iger, Doctor of Humane Letters. A distinguished executive in the entertainment industry, Robert Iger is president and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company as well as a steadfast supporter of the arts. He delivered the commencement address.

Norman Lear, Doctor of Humane Letters. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts and creator of several groundbreaking television shows, Norman Lear is a distinguished producer as well as a successful businessman and philanthropist.

Harlyne J. Norris, Doctor of Humane Letters. Philanthropist and USC trustee Harlyne J. Norris has distinguished herself through her generosity and guidance to USC and numerous organizations that support children, health care, medical research, education, and the arts.


May 2007

Ted Koppel, Doctor of Laws. A member of the Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the recipient of countless awards, Ted Koppel is one of journalism’s most honored figures. He delivered the commencement address.

Arvid Carlsson, Doctor of Science. Nobel Prize holder Arvid Carlsson discovered the role of dopamine in the brain and explored pharmacological treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Clint Eastwood, Doctor of Humane Letters. Iconic actor and a two-time Academy Award winning director, Eastwood is also a composer and film producer. Eastwood is as popular with audiences as he is with critics.

Joyce Kennard, Doctor of Laws. A three-time USC alumna, Joyce Kennard has served for nearly two decades on the California Supreme Court, where she is recognized and admired as a diligent and independent-minded jurist.


May 2006

Antonio Villaraigosa, Doctor of Humane Letters. Mayor of Los Angeles, former city councilmember and speaker of the California State Assembly, and distinguished visiting fellow at USC’s Southern California Studies Center. Mr. Villaraigosa delivered the commencement address.

Vartan Gregorian, Doctor of Humane Letters. President, Carnegie Corporation of New York. Renowned scholar and leader of public and private institutions, including Brown University; professor; historian; and author.

Herbert G. Klein, Doctor of Humane Letters. Retired vice president and editor-in-chief, Copley Newspapers. Long-serving USC trustee and alumnus, former White House communications director, and journalist.

Dr. Dushanka V. Kleinman, Doctor of Science. Deputy director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Rear admiral and America’s first female chief dental officer in the U.S. Public Health Service.


May 2005

Neil A. Armstrong, Doctor of Humane Letters. A USC alumnus who was the first person to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong has distinguished himself as a skilled pilot, a brave and innovative explorer, and a dedicated citizen, educator, and war veteran. Mr. Armstrong delivered the commencement address.

Dennis F. Dougherty, Doctor of Humane Letters. As USC’s Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Dennis Dougherty has played a major role in USC’s rapid ascent into the top ranks of premier research universities. He has developed an administrative model that is at the very forefront of American higher education.

Eberhardt Rechtin, Doctor of Science. The founder of systems architecting as an academic field, USC Professor Emeritus Eberhardt Rechtin has made pivotal contributions to telecommunications technology and systems architecture through his distinguished career in the aerospace industry, in government, and in higher education.

Andrew J. Viterbi, Doctor of Science. USC trustee, professor, and engineering alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi has distinguished himself as a communications pioneer, a visionary scholar, a skilled entrepreneur, and a steadfast supporter of education.

John Williams, Doctor of Music. The world’s foremost living composer of film music and a renowned conductor, John Williams has created music that has given voice to American culture for more than four decades.

Robert Zemeckis, Doctor of Fine Arts. A USC alumnus and award-winning director renowned for his innovative blending of technological wizardry and insightful storytelling, Robert Zemeckis has revolutionized filmmaking and established new standards of artistic excellence.


May 2004

John McCain, Doctor of Humane Letters. Legislator and military hero; has distinguished himself through his military service in Vietnam and his national leadership as a two-term member of Congress and a three-term United States Senator. Mr. McCain delivered the commencement address.

Edward Witten, Doctor of Science. Renowned mathematical physicist; has distinguished himself as a major contributor to the field of theoretical physics.


May 2003

Wallis Annenberg, Doctor of Humane Letters. USC trustee, vice president of the Annenberg Foundation; has distinguished herself as an exemplary philanthropist, a champion of educational opportunities particularly for women and children, and a lifelong friend of USC.

Mary Ellen Avery, Doctor of Science. Renowned physician, scientist, and neonatologist; has distinguished herself as an advocate for children through her groundbreaking scientific discoveries on respiratory disease in newborn babies.

Joseph Medicine Crow, Doctor of Humane Letters. USC alumnus (M.S. ’39) and tribal historian of the Crow Indian Tribe; has distinguished himself as a scholar of Indian tribal history and anthropology throughout his life.

Ruth Simmons, Doctor of Humane Letters. President of Brown University, is a distinguished scholar and university administrator. Former associate dean of the Graduate School at USC, Dr. Simmons has served as vice provost for Princeton University and president of Smith College before assuming the presidency at Brown University. Dr. Simmons delivered the commencement address.


May 2002

Robert Day, Doctor of Humane Letters. Chairman, President and CEO of the W.M. Keck Foundation, has distinguished himself as an exemplary philanthropist, community leader and advocate of higher education.

General William Lyon, Doctor of Humane Letters. USC Trustee, Chairman and CEO of the William Lyon Companies, has distinguished himself as a philanthropist, community leader and patron of the arts.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, Doctor of Humane Letters. The first native born Angeleno Archbishop of Los Angeles and one of the youngest bishops ever appointed in the United States and a champion of dialogue and understanding.

Dr. Cecil L. Murray, Doctor of Humane Letters. Reverend, First African Methodist Episcopal Church; under Reverend Murray’s leadership, FAME maintains 40 task forces that include health, substance abuse, emergency food and clothing, homelessness, equity advocacy, tutoring, employment training and others.


May 2001

Alfred E. Mann, Doctor of Humane Letters. USC Trustee and founding donor of the Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering at USC; Founder and Executive Chairman of MiniMed, Inc; humanitarian and philanthropist dedicated to the alleviation of human suffering.

Barry Munitz, Doctor of Humane Letters. President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust and former Chancellor of the California State University, who has dedicated his life to the ideals of educational opportunity, socioeconomic mobility and strengthening the community through the understanding of people that the arts provide. Dr. Munitz delivered the commencement address.


May 2000

Michael D. Eisner, Doctor of Humane Letters, chairman and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company, leader in the entertainment industry, philanthropist, and champion of humanitarian causes. Mr. Eisner delivered the commencement address.

Frank O. Gehry, Doctor of Fine Arts, distinguished alumnus and one of the preeminent living architects and designers in the world today.

George W. Housner, Doctor of Science, C.F. Braun Professor Emeritus of Engineering at the California Institute of Technology and one of the most renowned earthquake engineers of our time.

Elaine Leventhal, Doctor of Humane Letters, devoted alumna and great friend of the University, philanthropist, and tireless champion of higher education causes.

Kenneth Leventhal, Doctor of Humane Letters, dedicated USC Trustee, visionary leader in the field of accounting and accounting education, founding benefactor of the USC Leventhal School of Accounting, and successful leader of USC’s “Building on Excellence” development campaign.


A list of past speakers and honorary degree recipients prior to 2000 is available here.

If you have any further questions about USC’s honorary degrees, please feel free to send an e-mail to:

  • Honorary Degrees

    Office of the Provost, ADM 204
    University of Southern California
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-4019
    Telephone: (213) 740-6715