John C. Argue, new chair of USC’s Board of Trustees

Un-Argue-ably Qualified

As Trojan as they come, attorney John Argue becomes the first alumnus in 20 years to chair USC’s Board of Trustees.

"I BELIEVE IT'S IMPORTANT to pay your dues,” says John C. Argue JD ’56. Who could, ahem, argue that the newly elected chairman of the USC Board of Trustees hasn’t done just that?
The former senior partner of the Los Angeles law firm of Argue Pearson Harbison & Myers, who now divides his time between the business and nonprofit worlds, has more than paid his Trojan dues. There’s hardly a major academic program, school or athletic program at USC that hasn’t benefited from Argue’s involvement.
“I spend a lot of time down at USC,” he says from the headquarters of the Rose Hills Foundation, where he serves in one of his current philanthropic capacities as chairman. “I think I probably understand the place a little bit more than the average person.”
He understands not only USC, but Southern California as well. As founding chairman of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, Argue is widely regarded as the person most responsible for bringing the 1984 Olympic Games to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce honored his efforts by awarding him its Sparkplug Award in 1979, and in 1994, he was honored with the Olympic Order, the highest award given by the International Olympic Committee. He’s chairman of the committee to bring the Games back to the city in 2012.

ARGUE, WHO HAS BEEN a member of the Board of Trustees since 1984 and most recently chaired its development committee, succeeds Malcolm S. Currie and will serve a five-year term as chairman. He will thus spearhead the extension of USC’s record-breaking Building on Excellence campaign to $2 billion by the end of 2002. Argue calls this “an obvious thing to do.”
“Because,” he adds, “what’s the alternative? To quit? USC still has needs. It can be an even better place. Besides, we have so much momentum. There are a lot more people interested in giving, and we have an economy that’s still going well. I think the alumni really like USC and I think they feel good about making gifts to USC.”
With those foundational blocks still in place, he says, “this final phase of the campaign will focus on building top-quality campus facilities, enhancing the undergraduate student experience and spurring new and expanded medical research.” Of the goal of increasing the quality of student life, for example, Argue says, “We’ve extended the Campaign so that we can build meeting rooms for student organizations, and create new dormitories or improve existing dorms. We’re attracting more of the nation’s best students, so we need to provide them with the best in facilities.”

ASKED ABOUT HIS goals for the university during his term as trustee chairman, Argue is succinct and laudatory. “More of the same,” he says, acknowledging USC’s astounding recent accomplishments. “I think the school has come a long way, so I want to help keep the institution moving forward. Success buoys the spirit.
“I just think we have an excellent president in Steven Sample,” he adds. “My principal role is to support him, and to help organize the board to support him.”
Argue is the first alumnus elected chairman of the Board of Trustees in two decades and his devotion to his alma mater has more than a little to do with his true Trojan family history. His father, J. Clifford Argue, graduated from the USC Law School in 1930, and his children, Elizabeth Argue Pollon MA ’91 and John M. Argue ’90, are both USC alumni. Argue’s sister, Emily Argue Moffatt ’57, is an alumna as well.
He adds – as if his credentials need any shoring up – “I also have some cousins who went here.”


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