Service rewarded Senior Jim Lewis has had a lot of help on his way to becoming USC’s 12th Truman Scholar since the program’s inception in 1975. Now he’s eagerto begin repaying his debts.

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THE SIGN ON JIM LEWIS' desk reads, “The buck stops here.”
Believe it.
In his two years as treasurer of USC’s student government, Lewis has earned a reputation as a dedicated watchdog of more than $1 million in student programming fees.
When he assumed office two years ago, he inherited a 6 percent deficit and requests for two times as much funding as his predecessor. He responded by publishing a 100-page manual, explaining the need for belt tightening and itemizing all the requests for expenditures.
He then invited student organizations to personally plead their cases to him over four 10-hour days.
He repeated the whole process – including the marathon office hours – again last spring, even though by that time the Student Senate had weathered its financial storm.
And he managed the feat while maintaining a 3.6 GPA in the School of Public Administration and serving on the university’s Budget Advisory Committee.
“I just love to help people,” he says. “I love to see them walk in with a problem and see them walk out with a smile.”

SUCH DEDICATION IMPRESSED the Harry S. Truman Foundation. Last May, Lewis became the 12th Trojan to receive a Truman Scholarship since the award was established in 1975 to honor the 33rd president’s dedication to public service and education. The scholarship, which was awarded to about 80 students nationwide, recognizes academic achievement, leadership potential and commitment to public service, includes $30,000 for graduate school.
“For someone who is interested in going into public service, this is the honor to win – this is the big one,” says Margaret Harrington, an associate dean in the School of Public Administration.
Lewis hopes to attend the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and to complete a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in local and state government financial management.
After graduation, he wants to start building a career in city management, serving as an analyst or city manager’s assistant in progressively larger cities. Eventually, he would like to hold an elected office. “I’d love to be president of this country,” he says.

LEWIS WAS INSPIRED to become a public servant by the generosity of friends after his parents’ divorce when he was 13.
Steve Silbiger, a Toyota employee who acted as his adult advisor in the Boy Scouts, devoted 14 to 20 hours a week to shepherding him through a series of elected offices in the organization, culminating last year in Lewis’ selection as Eagle Scout of the Year for the Los Angeles Area Council, which includes most of the county.
“He always gave me helpful hints and inspiration,” Lewis says. “I couldn’t have done it without him.”
When Lewis and his mother had trouble coming up with $400 in commitment fees for USC, several families from Lewis’ church slipped checks for him onto the offering plate. Without the money, Lewis says, he wouldn’t have been able to attend the university, which has given him scholarships, other financial aid and work-study jobs. He is the first member of his family to go to college.
“Many people ... have invested in me,” he wrote on his Truman Scholarship application. “I plan to repay them by investing my life in service to others.”
Lewis had already done a lot of “repaying” by the time he arrived at USC. He was student president of his high school, editor-in-chief of his school newspaper, a student representative on his local school board and his school’s delegate to Boys State, an enactment of state politics staged each summer in Sacramento by the American Legion.
This semester, his hometown of Torrance, California, will be the focus of his energy. Over the summer, he wrote resolutions for its City Council, drafted statements for the mayor to send to Congress and the state Assembly and responded to the complaints of citizens. In December, he returned to a job as administrative intern in the city manager’s office, where he hopes to develop the city’s first centralized community relations plan.
“That’s my big interest,” he says, “getting people reconnected to their
government.”

-Meg Sullivan


The Price of Fame
Some Nobel laureates experience unexpected results from the prize, according to an article in the Oct. 11 Los Angeles Times. “George Olah of USC, who took the chemistry honor in 1994, says the pile of odd solicitations he received included a convicted murderer’s request for help in getting a retrial and a letter from Hungary, where Olah was born, from someone seeking a small share of his prize money to fix a roof,” the Times reported.
Photograph by Debra DiPaolo

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