UICK, GRAB A PENCIL. True or false:
1. Alcohol fumes not only of the “rubbing” variety scented the halls of the early School of Medicine.
2. USC’s first All-American was born without a left hand.
3. Before Exposition Park’s gardens, stadiums and museums moved in, the university neighbored a den of iniquity.
All true!
IF YOU ARE A LOVER of Trojan lore, there’s a treat in store for you the next time you roam nostalgically around USC’s two campuses. Historical relics and reminiscences about the university’s past have been permanently captured in 26 themed markers known as “history stations.” The enameled plaques, which began appearing two and a half years ago, were a joint project of University Public Relations, which was responsible for producing the stations, and the USC Alumni Association, which spearheaded the effort to find sponsors. The final markers were installed last fall, completing a colorful and enduring celebration of the university’s rich past.
“The idea grew out of President Sample’s feeling that one of the really precious things we have at USC is our long tradition,” explains Martha Harris, vice president for University Public Relations. “He was concerned that new students weren’t always properly introduced to that heritage, and he also felt that visitors to campus would enjoy learning about the university’s history.”
Involving the alumni association in the project was a natural: alumni are the keepers of the university’s traditions. Over the years, it was the alumni association that raised the money for such campus landmarks as Tommy Trojan, the Alumni Memorial Pylon and Alumni Park, so there was a strong precedent for the group’s participation.

"I absolutely love it when I walk on campus and see people reading the history stations," says Jerry Papazian '77.

Jerry Papazian ’77, president of the alumni association in 1995-96 and himself an amateur USC historian, embraced the project and has been instrumental in finding sponsors for each station.
“It was an easy sell,” he recalls. “People like USC, and people like history, and they like having their names on things on campus. A lot of potential sponsors connected with the themes, and said, ‘I want that one.’ ”

THE FIRST RESPONSES came from members of the alumni association’s board of governors, past presidents of the association and other alumni who saw the station sponsorships as an opportunity to do something special for the university. Papazian then approached the 1996 senior class about sponsoring a station as its class gift.
“They thought it was a fantastic idea and went out and raised the money to pay for their station,” he says. The next two classes – 1997 and 1998 – followed suit. Papazian also approached some earlier classes that had created endowments for class gifts but had not gotten around to spending them yet. He persuaded these classes to use interest from the endowments to sponsor history stations.
“It was a way to show that the money they had raised was still here and was continuing to grow,” he says.

THE STATIONs COLLECTIVELY present an anecdotal view of USC’s history rather than a comprehensive account. Emphasizing texture over strict chronology, they are intended to each stand alone, not serve as sequential stops on a walking tour. The effect is a sense of discovery as people unexpectedly encounter new markers.
“I absolutely love it when I walk on campus and see people who are clearly visitors reading the history stations,” Papazian says.
“I know that someone is connecting with them, and I say to myself, ‘These serve a good purpose.’ ”

History Stations Preview


Photography by Philip Channing

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