George F. Bovard


George Finley Bovard (1856-1932), Marion M. Bovard’s younger brother, was born in Alpha, Ind. After attending Indiana public schools, he completed his studies at India Asbury University (now known as DePauw University) while concurrently working as a schoolteacher. In 1879, he came to California to become a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, securing his first pastorate in San Bernardino. He relocated to Phoenix, Ariz., in 1880, for health reasons and returned to Los Angeles in 1881, enrolling at USC. As a member of USC’s first graduating class, Bovard received his bachelor’s degree in 1884. He earned his master’s in 1887, then returned to work as a minister and church administrator. In 1897, he was appointed presiding elder of the Los Angeles District, a position he held for six years.

At his alma mater, Bovard joined with seven other members of USC’s first two graduating classes to form the university’s first alumni association in 1885. He was elected the group’s inaugural president.

He also was a member of the USC Board of Trustees, and, after being named president of the board in 1899, he took responsibility for university-wide administration following the resignation of outgoing university president George W. White. On April 8, 1903 — making official the job he had been carrying out for four years — Bovard was unanimously elected president of the university.

Bovard’s presidency saw a significant expansion of USC’s academic offerings, spanning classes in pharmacy, civil and electrical engineering, and a Juris Doctor degree. USC also added a summer session that provided public school teachers the opportunity to complete additional coursework. USC’s physical plant also expanded with the construction of a gymnasium and two wings for the main university building. These new facilities contained laboratories for scientific study that were comparable to those at the best universities in the country. In 1910, a centrally administered graduate program was formed. Concurrently with these developments, enrollment was on the rise, and by 1916, USC was the second largest denominational university in the country, surpassed only by Northwestern University.

The Bovard administration also brought about a strengthening of USC’s ties to the community in which it was born. As early as 1905, a movement had begun to relocate USC to a less urban location with room for a larger campus, and the university went so far as to establish a committee charged with assessing the situation and identifying potential sites. But the Board of Trustees ultimately voted to keep the campus in its current location. In April 1917, Bovard made an official announcement explaining this decision: his statement articulated USC’s commitment to being a “city institution – the university which tries to solve the problems of the city.”

Almost concurrently with this announcement, USC’s forward movement went into reverse when the United States entered World War I. Enrollment plummeted as students left to enter the armed forces, and campus life changed profoundly as military training was introduced in physical education classes, a course in international conciliation was added to the curriculum and a senior division of the Reserve Officers Training Corps was established, by order of the Department of War, making USC an official training school for army officers.

The end of the war brought regained momentum, with enrollment increasing by 1,000 students annually beginning with the 1920-1921 academic year. Plans also moved forward for a new administration building, whose cornerstone was laid in October 1919. Yet while they represented a promising a new era for USC, the postwar years saw a decline in Bovard’s health. Following a leave of absence, he tendered his resignation. In July 1921, the dedication of the building that bears his name marked the end of his tenure as president. Upon his retirement, Bovard was named president-emeritus and an honorary member of the Board of Trustees.

1903: George Finley Bovard (brother of USC’s first president, Marion McKinley Bovard) is named USC’s fourth president.

1904: USC’s first Olympic athlete, Emil Breitkreutz (’06), brings home a bronze medal for the 800 meters.

1905: USC’s School of Pharmacy opens, as the first in Southern California.

1906: The USC Department of Physics begins offering courses in engineering, the precursor to USC’s College of Engineering (established in 1925).

1909: USC establishes a department of education, which obtains full school status nine years later.

1911: President William Howard Taft visits the USC campus.

1912: Los Angeles Times sportswriter Owen R. Bird dubs USC’s spirited athletic team the “Trojans.” Fred Kelly wins USC’s first Olympic gold medal for the 110-meter high hurdles. Greek letter societies are established. The Los Angeles Times announces that USC is “the first institution of its kind in the world to recognize the importance of the automobile” by establishing a course in that subject. The first edition of the Daily Trojan is published.

1914: A group of international students at USC founds the Cosmopolitan Club to “promote friendship” among students from Asia, Latin America and Europe.

1915: Ten-year-old Teresa Van Grove enrolls at USC, making her the youngest Trojan. USC’s Department of Sociology is created.

1917: USC President George Finley Bovard makes the following announcement: “There are two kinds of institutions, both of which have their place. One is the small college, placed by itself and sufficient to itself, with country surroundings and its campus remote from the city. The other is the city institution — the university which tries to solve the problems of the city.” The Board of Trustees decided that the University of Southern California should become and should remain a city institution.

1918: Mrs. Amy Winship, girlhood friend of Abraham Lincoln, attends USC at age 87 and is fondly nicknamed “the oldest co-ed in the world.”

1919: USC’s Department of Architecture opens, becoming the first of its kind in Southern California.

1920: USC’s program in social work is founded. USC establishes the College of Commerce and Business Administration — the first business school in Southern California. The USC Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is established, reemerging three years later as the Graduate School.

1921: Bovard Auditorium, one of the oldest stage facilities still operating in the Los Angeles area, is completed.