John R. Hubbard


A native of Belton, Texas, John R. Hubbard (1918–2011) earned his A.B., A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of Texas in 1938, 1939 and 1950. After serving as a private secretary to the commissioner of the Interstate Commerce Commission in Washington, D.C., from 1938 to 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and took flight training with Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (the older brother of John F. Kennedy), who later was killed during the war. During a five-year tour of duty as a naval aviator in World War II, Hubbard attained the rank of lieutenant commander and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air Medals.

Following his military service, Hubbard held a variety of academic posts, including faculty appointments at Louisiana State University, Tulane University and Yale University. In 1953, he returned to New Orleans to accept the deanship of H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, a historic women’s college that is part of Tulane University. He held the deanship until 1965.

That year, Hubbard left for India, together with his family, to serve as chief education adviser for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Over the next four years, he developed deep ties to the country, emerging as an authority on the history of British India and Indo-U.S. relations.

Two decades later, he returned to the Republic of India, this time as U.S. ambassador, from 1988 to 1989. For his outstanding contributions in this position, he was awarded the Alben W. Barkley Medal for Distinguished Service.

Hubbard came to USC as vice president and provost in 1969. He served in that capacity for a year before his unanimous election to succeed Norman H. Topping as university president in 1970.

As USC’s eighth president, Hubbard set his priority as building on the university’s burgeoning strength as an academic research institution. During his first year in office, USC became a member of the Association of American Universities, and in 1975, Hubbard launched what was USC’s most ambitious fundraising effort to date, the Toward Century II campaign. Designed to prepare the university for its second century, the campaign was remarkable for its success in light of the economic challenges of the period, raising more than $309 million for university programs and endowment.

Over the course of Hubbard’s decade of leadership, USC rose from 33rd to 19th in National Science Foundation rankings for federally sponsored research and recruited many transformative faculty members, including George Olah, who joined the university in 1977 and went on to win the 1994 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Applications for admission to USC also rose significantly, from 4,100 in 1970 to more than 11,000 in 1979, and the mean grade point average for admitted freshmen vaulted to 3.4 on a 4.0 scale.

In addition, it was during Hubbard’s administration that USC established its Office of International Alumni and the Emeriti Center, both unique initiatives in higher education at the time.

A dedicated teacher, Hubbard served a dual role as administrator and educator throughout his tenure as president. Following his resignation from the presidency in 1980, for a decade he held the John R. Hubbard Chair in History at USC, which friends and colleagues had endowed in honor of his academic leadership. He continued to teach as a member of the history faculty at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences until failing health at age 91 forced him to stop.

Long after his retirement, Hubbard continued to support the USC Emeriti Center as a senior adviser, and he also served as a trustee emeritus on the USC Board of Trustees.

Hubbard’s contributions to USC’s educational mission have been memorialized in the USC Mexican American Alumni Association’s highest honor, the John R. Hubbard Award. Presented to an outstanding Latino student at the organization’s annual fundraising gala each spring, the award was established in 1977 as a tribute to the then-president’s creation of a two-to-one matching program providing tuition assistance to Latino students at the time of the association’s founding in 1973.

Also commemorating the achievements of the Hubbard decade and his contributions to the university and higher education, USC’s Student Administrative Services Building on Childs Way was rededicated as John R. Hubbard Hall in September 2003.

Hubbard died in August 2011 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., following an extended illness.

1970: John R. Hubbard is elected as USC’s eighth president, and President Emeritus Norman Topping is elected as USC’s second chancellor.

1971: The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is established through the support of Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg.

1972: USC’s Joint Educational Project (JEP) — a program that combines academic coursework with community service — is launched, making it one of the oldest service-learning programs in the United States.

1974: The USC School of Urban and Regional Planning is established. Under Coach Rod Dedeaux’s leadership, the university’s baseball team wins its fifth straight NCAA title — a record that no other squad has come close to achieving. USC’s Dedeaux Field opens its gates.

1975: The USC Davis School of Gerontology, the first gerontology school in the United States, welcomes its first students.

1977: U.S. president Gerald Ford sends USC president Hubbard an autographed $10 bill to satisfy their wager regarding the outcome of the Rose Bowl game, in which USC defeated Michigan.

1978: Hubbard establishes USC’s Emeriti Center to provide services and support for faculty and staff both prior to retirement and throughout the retirement years. (The Emeriti College, which links emeriti scholars to the community through a lecture series and whose members mentor USC students, was formed in 1990.)

1979: The country’s first university-based institute for the study of hydrocarbons — molecules that are the basis of petroleum products — is dedicated at USC. Fleetwood Mac invites the Trojan Marching Band to perform on the title song for the album “Tusk,” which becomes the band’s first platinum album.

1980: USC celebrates its centennial, Hubbard steps down from the presidency and returns to teaching, and James H. Zumberge becomes USC’s ninth president.