October 7, 2011
By C. L. Max Nikias

Good morning. I want to warmly welcome you all here to honor our dear friend and president emeritus, Dr. John R. Hubbard.

As we gather here in Bovard, I know there is a tremendous sense of admiration and respect, mixed with gratitude and love. I certainly come with my own share.

Jack was truly a remarkable man, and has a permanent place in USC’s history as our esteemed eighth president. Jack also occupies a special place in our nation’s history as an illustrious ambassador to India and a highly decorated member of our armed forces.

But to so many of us here, Jack was also a trusted friend and colleague. We remember his keen mind and his quick wit, his passion for history, for USC, and for Trojan Athletics.

We remember the kind person with a bottomless well of knowledge, the spirited man with a vast spectrum of experiences. We remember the singular human being.

More than a year ago, as I prepared to assume the role of president, I carefully studied the contributions of my ten distinguished predecessors. I quickly learned that each made his unique mark, and each leaves his own extraordinary legacy.

For Jack, the list of accomplishments is as impressive as it is long. He understood the importance of having a world-class faculty, and pushed aggressively for the very best, knowing that they formed the foundation of any great university.

He led the extremely ambitious Toward Century II fundraising campaign, which generated more than $309 million for programs and endowment. That campaign’s resounding success set USC on a strategic course, one that ensured the university’s lofty standing today. For this, all Trojans should be grateful.

During his tenure, Jack also significantly increased USC’s profile around the world, having established the Office of International Alumni. This strategic move positioned USC as the forerunner among all American universities in the founding of international alumni clubs.

Jack’s leadership inspired USC’s rapid advance throughout the 1970s, and in those pivotal ten years, the university completely transformed itself. USC became a member of the Association of American Universities, and vaulted from 33rd to 19th in National Science Foundation rankings for federally funded research.

Undergraduate applications skyrocketed from 4,100 in 1970 to more than 11,000 in 1979. Ten major buildings were completed, while the university’s total number of endowed chairs and professorships rose to 67.

Our Emeriti Center opened, making USC one of the very first universities in our nation to nurture a lifelong connection with retired faculty and staff. Jack believed so firmly in its mission that he remained a senior adviser to its leadership, years after he left the president’s office.

And his contributions will continue to benefit our community long after we conclude this service, long after we file out of Bovard Auditorium.

To be sure, Jack lives on through the work of Judith Bennett and Cynthia Herrup, the current holders of the John R. Hubbard Chair in History, a chair endowed by Jack’s admiring friends and colleagues. Jack lives on through the work of the transformative faculty USC recruited during his tenure—a group that included Distinguished Professor George Olah, who would later become USC’s very first Nobel laureate.

And Jack lives on in legions of Latinos, as he established a generous 2-to-1 matching program to benefit Latino students at USC. For this very reason, I know there is no shortage of love for Jack among our alumni. In fact, each year at its gala, the USC Latino Alumni Association recognizes an outstanding student with the Dr. John R. Hubbard Award, and this award stands in tribute to Jack’s compassionate vision.

Several times a week, we all pass John R. Hubbard Hall, which stands at the very heart of our University Park Campus, and we smile. I know that future generations of students, faculty, and staff will hear Jack’s name in perpetuity.

We all know: Jack loved USC, and USC Athletics. But if there were ever any doubt, just ask our student-athletes. He was their most impassioned champion and, during his presidency, USC Athletics celebrated its most successful decade ever, earning 26 national titles. This feat includes three in football, six in baseball, five in women’s tennis, and four in men’s swimming!

On the sidelines of a football game, Jack’s enthusiasm shined. In fact, at the USC vs. Hawaii game in 1978, he decried what he saw as lopsided calls against USC, and was flagged by a referee. He simply couldn’t contain his Trojan spirit!

I’ll let others pay tribute to Jack’s contributions outside USC, but I do want to make a point of honoring his courageous service to our nation. During World War II, Jack completed a five-year tour of duty as a naval aviator, having enlisted in the United States Navy before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His plane was appropriately named Prometheus Unbound! He ultimately attained the rank of lieutenant commander and received the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals.

Jack loved his country. And it’s a nation’s gratitude that visits us this morning.

We all have our personal stories about Jack—and I could easily fill an entire morning with my own. But I’d like to share two that stand out in my mind, if I may.

The first one happened at the California Club, where my wife and I maintained a home-away-from-home for six years, given our long commute to USC from Rancho Palos Verdes. We loved our room at the Club, and it turned out, our neighbors next door were Jack and Marcia. Their room was 409; ours was 410.

One morning, while rushing out to a meeting, I saw Jack, quietly opening his door.

“Good morning, Jack!” I called out.

He looked at me, and held his finger up to his mouth.

“Sh-h-h-h!” he said, with a twinkle of humor in his eye. “If you don’t tell, I won’t.”

A second story came during my inauguration celebration. Niki and I didn’t expect to see Jack. We all knew he was very frail at that point, and had been in and out of the hospital with regular blood transfusions. He had lost a lot of weight. But on Thursday evening, as we were walking to dinner, there was Jack, sitting outside the door! He stood up with some difficulty and I quickly went to him.

I reached out, and said, “Jack, you’re here!”

He looked me in the eyes, and answered, “Of course! You are my president.”

I will never forget that moment.

In the three decades since Jack stepped down as USC’s president, he remained a beloved presence on our campuses. He served as trustee emeritus on the Board of Trustees and taught scores of students. In their course evaluations, Jack’s students sang his praises, citing his passion for learning, his great storytelling, and his remarkable ability to inspire the class. The evaluations were so strong and glowing that—during my first year as provost—I sent him a congratulatory letter, thanking him for his dedication.

He responded with one sentence: “This is what the university is all about.”

Jack’s connection to the Trojan Family spanned more than four decades—nearly a third of the entire life of our university. We warmly salute his memory this morning.

Thank you.