September 28, 2011
By C. L. Max Nikias

It is with great excitement that I welcome you to the USC Good Neighbors Campaign Kickoff!

The programs funded by this campaign stand as an enduring testimony to the power of real partnerships.

The true test of a university’s impact is whether it can make a big difference for its local community. While our aspirations and accomplishments are shared with the world at large, our commitment begins with the communities surrounding our two campuses. And it begins with you, the faculty and staff of USC.

I salute and celebrate your generosity, which has helped raise an incredible $12.5 million since the Good Neighbors Campaign began in 1994.

However, the success of this effort is measured not only in the millions you give, but also in the milestones that are reached through the partnerships and programs made possible by your contributions.

Milestones achieved by individuals like Benjamin Jiminez, who became the first in his family to graduate from college after participating in the USC STAR program. This program provides high school students with a mentor and hands-on experience in a USC laboratory. Today, this gifted young man is pursuing a graduate degree in aerospace engineering and continuing the STAR program’s spirit of mentorship by coaching a high school science bowl team.

But achievements such as Benjamin’s are not possible unless we provide local students and families with what they need most: an opportunity. Opportunity that opens doors, that provides hope, that transforms lives.

Our most recent Good Neighbors Campaign is distributing $1.2 million to 48 worthy programs. This year we plan to stretch a little further – to raise $1.4 million. However, to reach that goal we need your participation. During the last campaign, we raised a lot of money. But only 38 percent of our faculty and staff made a donation.

What we have done together over the last few years has been amazing. But I want you to imagine something for a moment. Imagine what we could do if 50 percent of our faculty and staff made a contribution. Or 75 percent. Or even 100 percent! We would not only enhance the lives of local students and families, we would forever alter the future of our entire community.

While I understand that every dollar counts in these demanding days, let me put this campaign in perspective. Last year, the average donation to our Good Neighbors Campaign was about $200. That comes to just under $4 per week.

Here are some questions that I want you to ask yourselves.

Would you be willing to give up a cup of coffee once a week to help a child become the first in her family to attend college?

Would you be willing to forgo a book on your Kindle to help a kid learn to read?

Would you skip a night at the movies to help ensure the streets of our neighborhoods remain safe?

For a very small sacrifice, each of us can make a large difference in the lives of individuals and families.

This year’s Good Neighbors Campaign is special for another reason. Less than two weeks ago, USC announced the largest fundraising campaign in the history of higher education. For those looking for a unique way to help us in our ambitious fundraising effort, look no further than the Good Neighbors Campaign. This year, and in successive years, your contributions to the Good Neighbors Campaign will be counted as part of the university’s larger campaign.

And you can take great pride that you are not only changing the course of lives in our local communities, but also shaping the destiny of this great university.

If you plan to donate to this year’s campaign, I thank you in advance for your contributions. If you’re not sure where you stand, I encourage you take a positive step and make a pledge. If you know people who are uncertain about participating, I encourage you to ask them to make a donation that makes a difference. And together we can have an even greater impact than ever before.

Over the years, USC and its neighboring communities have grown up together. And they have grown wiser together. Through the Good Neighbors Campaign, you can help us to continue to grow closer together and to continue to transform lives.