Music’s Munificent Muse

Her gift — to the tune of $25 million — prompts USC to name the School of Music in honor of arts patron Flora L. Thornton.

Philanthropist and arts patron Flora L. Thornton has given $25 million to the School of Music. In recognition of the gift — believed to be the largest ever given to a school of music at an American college or university — the USC Board of Trustees has voted to rename the school of music in Thorn-ton’s honor.
“Our School of Music has established itself over the past century as one of the nation’s five finest ... and as one of Southern Calfornia’s true civic treasures,” President Steven B. Sample told a jubilant crowd at the March 23 naming ceremony.
“The school’s ability to attract the country’s best student and faculty talent has helped spark this region’s emergence as a world cultural center. Flora Thornton’s generosity will significantly enhance our ability to attract top talent to Southern California and to nurture and develop it in the fullest ways possible,” he said.
“It’s nice to back a winner,” said Thornton of her gift, which will significantly increase the school’s endowment.
Larry J. Livingston, dean of the school, said the endowment “will forever stand as a tribute to the gifted faculty, outstanding students and renowned guest artists who have graced our halls for more than a century. We are honored to be the beneficiary of a patron who has such a distinguished record of supporting the best values in our society. I am deeply touched that this great school will bear Flora’s name.”
The Thornton gift advances USC’s position as a leader in the development of the downtown Figueroa Corridor, especially in the arts.
“Flora Thornton’s philanthropy will leave an enduring mark on the history of the arts at USC and throughout Los Angeles,” said Sample. “With anchors such as the USC Thornton School of Music, and another recipient of her generosity — Disney Hall — now in development, we are in the midst of a cultural renaissance in downtown Los Angeles. I think the future will see Mrs. Thornton as a key builder of that renaissance.”

FLORA LANEY THORNTON attended Texas Tech University, majoring in nutrition and clothing design. She studied voice in New York, later performing in two Broadway musicals. In 1937, she married Charles “Tex” Thornton, founder and chairman of Litton Industries. The late USC trustee endowed the Charles B. Thornton Professorship in Finance at the USC Marshall School of Business.
Flora Thornton’s earlier gifts to USC include endowing the Flora L. Thornton Chair in Preventive Medicine and the Flora Thornton Cancer Prevention and Research Education Center, both at the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.
A pioneer in recognizing the importance of diet and nutrition in health and disease prevention, Thornton established the Flora Laney Thornton Professorship in Nutrition at Pepperdine University, where she has served as a regent for 15 years. She also sits on the board of St. John’s Hospital Center Foundation.
She has an equally remarkable history as a patron of Los Angeles cultural institutions. Thornton is a founding angel of the Los Angeles Opera, a member of the Los Angeles Music Center Opera Board, and an active participant in Blue Ribbon, the Music Center’s premier women’s support group. She is a member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council and founder of the Council of the Library Foundation, which supports the Los Angeles public library system. In the 1980s, President Reagan appointed her to the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board.




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