November 20, 2018

Steven B. Sample, Former President of USC, 75

Steven B. Sample, who served as president of the University of Southern California for nearly two decades, died March 29 at 75.

Sample, who was Episcopalian, significantly strengthened USC’s image within the Jewish community, according to Steven J. Ross, co-director of the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life. Sample helped establish the institute, which provides USC students the opportunity to explore the Jewish role in the contemporary American landscape. 

He was also dedicated to interfaith relations. In 1996, he created the USC office of religious life and appointed Rabbi Susan Laemmle as the office’s dean. Laemmle was the first rabbi in the country to hold such a position.

His work extended to the Holocaust research sphere as well. In 2005, Steven Spielberg worked with Sample to turn the Shoah Foundation, an archive of Holocaust survivor testimony, over to USC, renaming it the USC Shoah Foundation  — The Institute for Visual History and Education. 

Born in St. Louis in 1940 and raised in Wilton, Conn., by a mother who was a civic activist and a father who was an electric motor company sales manager, Sample graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He met his future wife, Kathryn Brunkow, while in college. 

Trained as an electrical engineer, Sample served on the faculty at Purdue University and the University of Nebraska and served as president of the University at Buffalo before becoming USC’s 10th president in 1991. 

Among his accomplishments was growing USC’s endowment, developing the USC School of Cinematic Arts into one of the most prestigious film schools in the nation and more. Sample retired in 2010. No cause of death was released, according to the Los Angeles Times.

He is survived by his wife, Kathryn; daughters Michelle Sample Smith and Elizabeth Sample; and two grandchildren.