History of the University of Southern California

Told Through Its Buildings

The University of Southern California was founded in autumn of 1880 when the population of Los Angeles numbered 11,000. On land donated by men of different religious faiths, the University began with 53 students studying the Classics, Philosophy and Science. One thousand citizens were present at the dedication of the first campus building, constructed at a cost of $5,060 and still in use today as the School of Music (this is Widney Alumni Hall - editor's note). The original land was donated by Ozro W. Childs, John G. Downey and Isaias William Hellman.

Founded as a private co-educational university under the sponsorship of the Methodist Conference of Southern California, USC has been officially non-sectarian since 1926, when the Church withdrew to organize independently one of its national seminaries.

Though it has expanded vastly to meet the continuing growth of Los Angeles, the University still occupies its original site, three miles southwest of the downtown area.

Important dates

1879 - Original land donated for campus.

1880 - University was founded and cornerstone of first building laid, September 4. Marion McKinley Bovard elected first president. Served until 1891. First classes started.

1881 - Active public relations campaign launched. First catalog issued-a 28 page folder.

1883 - Cornerstone laid for University Church.

1884 - First graduation ceremony-three graduates.

1885 - First alumni association organized with eight members.

1886 - University system installed with College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences to be the center around which the other schools were to cluster.

1892 - Joseph P. Widney elected second president. Served until 1895.

1895 - Founders Building completed at cost of $20,000. Student enrollment reached 500. Rev. George W. White became third president. Served until 1899.

1896 - Masters degree conferred upon 27 students.

1903 - George Finley Bovard became fourth president. Served until 1921.

1905 - Physical Education Building completed.

1906 - First big intercollegiate football game-Occidental 22, USC 0. Limited extension program installed.

1907 - Chemistry building completed.

1908 - Several student publications started. Eight fraternities and sororities organized.

1910 - Owen R. Bird, Sports Editor of the Los Angeles Times, first referred to USC athletes as "Trojans". Summer session started.

1913 - Constitution of student body revised so that every registered student could vote.

1916 - Purchase of additional land required for expansion of campus.

1919 - Bovard Administration Building completed.

1920 - Rufus B. von KleinSmid became fifth president. Served until 1947 when he became Chancellor.

1923 - Bookstore opened.

1924 - First alumni homecoming. First wing of Science Hall completed.

1925 - Law Building completed.

1926 - Aeneas Hall (now Stonier) Men's Dormitory completed.

1927 - Bridge Hall completed. Student Union completed. First doctorate degree conferred. Office of admissions and Bureau of Employment organized.

1929 - Seeley Wintersmith Mudd Memorial Hall of Philosophy completed.

1930 - Semi-Centennial Celebration-Unveiling of the Trojan Shrine ("Tommy Trojan").

1932 - Doheny Memorial Library completed.

1935 - Town & Gown Building completed.

1937 - Hancock Foundation started. Cruiser Velero III presented to the University with an endowment for maintenance as scientific floating library.

1939 - Harris Hall completed. Fisher Gallery completed.

1940 - Engineering building completed.

1941 - Allan Hancock Foundation building completed.

1947 - Fred D. Fagg, Jr. became sixth president. Served until 1958.

1948 - Enrollment hit all-time high with grand total of 27,493 students in all divisions.

1950 - Addition to Fine Arts building completed. Founders Hall completed. Commons completed.

1951 - Organic Chemistry wing completed. Health Service building completed. YWCA building completed. Elizabeth von KleinSmid Memorial Residence hall and University Hall completed.

1952 - Medical Campus near Los Angeles County Hospital purchased and Raulston Medical Research Building completed. Dentistry building completed.

1953 - David Marks dormitory for men completed. University Avenues closed as step in campus development.

1955 - Diamond Jubilee celebration.

1958 - Norman Topping elected seventh president. Trojan Hall men's dormitory completed. Nuclear Physics Laboratory completed. Petroleum and Chemical Engineering building completed.

1959 - Planning Commission established to determine future academic and physical goals of the University.

1960 - Faculty Center completed. Seeley Wintersmith Mudd Memorial Laboratory of the Medical Sciences completed. Paul S. McKibben Hall medical building completed.

1961 - Master Plan for Enterprise and Excellence in Education, the report of the work of the Planning Commission, announced May 17. Computer Center established.

Compiled by Ruth Wallach, University libraries, from records in University Archives.


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