The University of Southern California was established by a group of Los Angeles citizens who wanted to improve the city with a world-class university. Led by Judge Robert Maclay Widney, USC opened in 1880 with ten professors and 53 students. In the first year the college of liberal arts, a university band, and a debate team were established. The first housing facility, Hodge Hall, opened the following year.
In 1884 USC held its first commencement with a graduating class of three students, including one woman, Minnie Miltimore, who was named valedictorian. In 1904 the school’s first Olympic athlete, Emil Brietkreutz won the bronze medal for 800 meters. He was the first of many USC athletes to go to the Olympics.
In 2001 USC’s film program opened the Robert Zemeckis Center as the nation’s first and only fully digital filmmaking training facility. The same year, the Association of American Colleges and Universities called USC one of the 16 “leadership institutions.”
USC’s undergraduate campus is in University Park. Its boundaries are Jefferson Boulevard on the north and northeast, Figueroa Street on the southeast, Exposition Boulevard on the south and Vermont Avenue on the west.
Most buildings are in the Romanesque style, characterized by their massive scale, thick walls, round arches and traditional red brick, such as Zumberge Hall, one of the university’s earliest structures, and Mudd Hall. Other buildings, including some dorms, engineering and physical sciences complexes, are more modern and made of concrete.
The reflecting pool outside of Leavey Library is a meeting place for students, who lounge and hang out around it between classes. Nearby is the 24-hour convenience store Trojan Grounds as well as Doheney Library. USC has several fountains interspersed throughout campus, each symbolizing something different.
The sunny southern California weather means Trojans aren’t shy about being outdoors. There are many plazas, pavilions and courtyards around campus that serve as respites from the urban campus setting. Grassy McCarthy Quad, between Doheney Library and Leavey Library, is constantly alive with students playing Frisbee, tanning or a spontaneous game of water tag, provided by the lawn’s sprinklers.
Located just a couple miles from downtown LA, USC is in the heart of the second largest city in the nation. Just a twenty minute drive away from the beach, Hollywood, or Burbank Studios, there is much to do off-campus for USC students. Recently, Downtown LA has seen a lot of real estate development, with a significant number of USC students renting lofts and newly modeled student apartments, located right at the edge of campus on South Figueroa Street.
Exposition Park (which holds the Rose Garden, the Natural History Museum, and the California Science Center) and the Los Angeles Civic Center are next to the campus. USC is also right off a network of freeways, including the 110, 405, and the 10, and metro routes that provide access to many recreational, cultural, and business areas of Los Angeles.
The university’s relationship with the surrounding area has generally been a positive one however expansion has caused some tension. The university is traditionally seen as a resource for the community, providing health care, educational outreach, social welfare, and cultural activities to residents. It has also provided jobs for many members of the community.
USC has many traditions, most of them, unsurprisingly, related to athletic events. To kick off each home game, students kick the lamppost on the way to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of Trojan football. Students say it’s good luck for the next “battle.”
A long-awaited moment in a Trojan’s career is the Senior Fountain Run. On their very last day of college, seniors dress up in ridiculous outfits or bathing suits and splash around in all or many of USC’s fountains. The event is organized by undisclosed members of the student body. It unites the entire class and for one night only, USC is essentially a water park.
Another sports-related tradition is duct taping Tommy Trojan a week prior to the football game with UC Los Angeles, USC’s cross town rival. Members of the Trojan Knights organization, a club of die-hard fans, tape and then stand guard to protect Tommy from being vandalized by UCLA students. Also part of the week-long wait until the UCLA game is “sacrificing” a Bruin Bear by setting it on fire, and teddy bears can be seen hanging from makeshift nooses all over campus. The entire week of activities and rituals is called Conquest.
Judd Apatow (1987) is a director of films such as the 40-Year-Old Virgin, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Knocked Up.
Will Ferrell (1990) is an actor and former Saturday Night Live cast member. He has appeared in films such as Old School, A Night at the Roxbury, and Stranger than Fiction.
Joyce L. Kennard (1970) is the first female Asian-American to serve as an associate justice on the California Supreme Court.
Matt Leinart (2005) is a Heisman Trophy winner and professional football player for the Arizona Cardinals.
George Lucas (1966) is a director of films such as Star Wars, American Graffiti, and Indian Jones the Curse of the Crystal Skull.
Cheryl Miller (1986) is a former USC women’s basketball coach and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Tex Winter (1947) is a professional basketball coach and inventor of the Triangle offense.
USC is an NCAA Division I school and a member of the Pacific Ten Conference. It has won a total of 108 team national championships, 88 of which are NCAA victories. Men’s teams in particular have won 73 national championships, more than any other university in the U.S.
Undoubtedly the school’s most talked about and beloved athletic program is football. Over the years USC football has not only captured the attention of USC students, but has also picked up fans nationwide. The organization has claimed 11 national victories, seven Heisman trophy winners and the National College All-Sports Championship.
Other major varsity level athletic teams include baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s waterpolo, and women’s soccer, among many others. There are also a number of successful club sports.
USC became the “Trojans” in 1912 after a Los Angeles Times reporter gave them the nickname, and in 1922 USC dental student wrote the school’s song, “Fight On”, as an entry in a Trojan Spirit contest. It is still USC’s chant today.
With Hollywood just a few exits away, a plethora of films have been shot at USC. Forrest Gump, Legally Blonde, Road Trip, the Graduate, and Live Free or Die Hard are just a few on the extensive list. USC has also been a backdrop for a number of TV shows such as Entourage, Saved by the Bell: The College Years, and House.
The first theatre to utilize THX sound technology is in USC’s Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre, part of USC’s acclaimed film school.
USC is the largest private employer in the city of Los Angeles and the third largest in California.
Time Magazine named the school “College of the Year 2000” for its extensive community service programs.
Most dorms offer the typical undergraduate experience: double occupancy rooms that share a long hallway, communal bathrooms, and a common lounge area. The Dean’s dorms, Marks Hall and Trojan Hall are the honors dorms - however they also have the distinction of being the oldest and least updated facilities on campus. Nestled between the two Dean’s residences are Pardee Tower and Marks Tower, which are both larger than Dean’s, Marks Hall, and Trojan Hall and are not honors halls.
Birnkrant, New, and North are known as party halls where every door is open, friends are easily made, and quiet hours are constantly ignored. With a convenient location neighboring the dining hall Everybody’s Kitchen, or EVK, and the 24-hour convenience store Trojan Grounds, these dorms are the most popular and thus the hardest to come by.
The alternatives to double-occupancy rooms are suites. USC offers three such residences: Parkside International Residential College, Flour Tower, and the Arts and Humanities Residential College. These three buildings are in close proximity to the business, engineering, music, and athletic facilities on campus. As a result, most students living in these dorms major in these fields. International students similarly congregate in these dorms. In the two residential colleges, three double-occupancy rooms connect with a small hallway and a shared bathroom whereas the suites in Flour Tower enjoy the luxury of a spacious common room. These facilities are newer and more spacious; they are also slightly more expensive.