USC School of Public Policy gets $50-million gift


The USC School of Public Policy is getting a $50-million donation from the charity established by the founder of the Price Club warehouse-style shopping chain, university officials plan to announce Tuesday.

The school will be renamed for the late Sol Price, who earned an undergraduate and law degree from USC and went on to success in discount membership retailing and in real estate investments.

Price died in 2009 and his wife, Helen, who also graduated from USC, died the year before.


Robert Price, their son and president of the San Diego-based Price Family Charitable Fund, said USC’s public policy programs in real estate, urban planning and health administration dovetail with his father’s endeavors.

“This is a very good time to honor my father and to align his interests and what he did with his career with this naming opportunity,” he said.

Robert Price said he began to think about the donation at his son’s recent graduation from the school, which has been called the USC School of Policy, Planning and Development. Some of the money will be used to establish the USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation, a think tank that will seek to promote sustainable community development in low-income urban areas. Other earnings from an endowment will fund fellowships and faculty projects, Price said.

USC has landed several unusually large donations in the last year, including its largest to date, a $200-million gift from alumnus David Dornsife and his wife, Dana, to the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. In August, USC President C. L. Max Nikias launched what is thought to be the most ambitious fundraising campaign goal in U.S. academia: To garner $5 billion in donations by 2018, on top of $1 billion given to the school in the last year.

Nikias thanked the Price family and said the gift and new name would give the public policy school, which enrolls 1,450 undergraduate and graduate students, a stronger identity and boost its academic power. The school’s research in development, transportation and immigration issues is especially important in helping to improve life in Southern California, Nikias said in a recent interview.

Sol Price opened the first Price Club in 1976 and it became a retail phenomenon with 94 warehouse clubs in North America. In 1993, the Price Club enterprise merged with the rival Costco Wholesale Corp. warehouse chain. Sol Price also invested millions in developments to help revitalize the City Heights area in San Diego.