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Verna B. Dauterive dies at 93; longtime L.A. Unified principal and honorary USC trustee

Verna B. Dauterive, a USC donor and longtime Los Angeles Unified School District principal, died June 1 of natural causes. She was 93.

Dauterive was hired by L.A. schools in 1943, one of only four black teachers in the district at the time.

Four decades later, Dauterive and her husband, Peter, endowed the first scholarship for minority doctoral students in education at USC, where she had completed graduate work.

It was one of several gifts to USC. The couple, over time, committed a total of $30 million toward scholarship funds, libraries and other functions there. Verna Dauterive’s 2008 donation in memory of her husband, who died in 2002, was considered one of the largest gifts at the time from an African American to a U.S. college.

Well into her 80s, as an honorary USC trustee, colleagues said Verna Dauterive outlasted them in meetings and powered up stairs in her elegant high heels.

Slim and attentive to style, “she was always put together, she was always prepared, she was always thoughtful,” said friend and colleague Tom Sayles, USC vice president for university relations.

According to USC, Dauterive was born Oct. 1, 1922, in LeCompte, La. Her mother was principal of a blacks-only school, and her father was a Pullman train porter.

She landed a teaching job in Los Angeles after receiving her bachelor's degree at Wiley College in Texas, and later earned her master’s and doctorate in education at USC, where she published a widely-cited dissertation on public school integration — a topic that she also pursued in her career.

She became a top administrator in L.A.’s program to voluntarily bus minority students to schools in white areas, a role she looked back on with mixed feelings. The program raised some students' aspirations, but "didn't seem to make a big difference academically by sitting in a different environment or next to a white student," Dauterive told the Los Angeles Times in 2008.

She chaired California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the Commission on the Status of Women and for 23 years served as principal of Franklin Avenue Elementary school in Los Feliz.

Colleagues and parents said Dauterive, who did not have children, poured her energies into Franklin Elementary.

"This school was her child," Elisa Paolino-Dubois, whose daughter was a student, told The Times in 2005. "She never missed an event. She understood the school system, and she was a quintessential lady."

When she retired in 2005, about 300 people attended her retirement luncheon. Some waited an hour in line to hug her.

Dauterive had met her husband, a former soldier, in the basement stacks of USC’s Doheny Memorial Library when both were students in 1947.

He was, like her, a recent arrival from segregated Louisiana looking for better opportunities in Los Angeles. After getting his business degree on the GI Bill, he started Founders Savings and Loan Assn., a Crenshaw district institution that helped provide home loans for residents devastated by the 1965 Watts riots. He stepped down in 1986, the same year federal regulators seized Founders and said at the time that the thrift was suffering from mismanagement, according to a Times report in 1989. 

Peter Dauterive later formed a property management firm and was known as a savvy investor in apartment buildings, stocks and oil drilling projects. He also served on the boards of a number of civic institutions, such as the Los Angeles Zoo and the California Science Museum. The couple were married 53 years.

A longtime resident of View Park, Dauterive was active in her church, Holman United Methodist in Jefferson Park, and was rooted in her neighborhood, Sayles said. “But her branches went well beyond the black community — she really was a leader in the city.”

rosanna.xia@latimes.com

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