USC Price School of Public Policy

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Announcing a Naming Gift for Our Great School

Dear Athenian Society Members:

It is my great, great honor to share some extraordinary news. Our School has received a $50 million dollar naming gift from the Price Family Charitable Fund, to honor the life and legacy of Sol Price, founder of Price Club.

This naming gift reflects a remarkable alignment between Sol Price’s life and legacy and the mission of our school. Sol Price possessed a deep understanding of the interplay between the public sector, private industry, and nonprofit organizations to improve the quality of life for individuals and communities. He also recognized the great value of an interdisciplinary approach to bring about positive social and economic change, including all the major fields of our school. It is rare indeed to find a benefactor whose life mission so closely aligns with our school, and we are deeply grateful and honored to be selected to represent his legacy.

Sol Price Sol Price was a brilliant entrepreneur who applied his creativity to the business and nonprofit worlds. A USC alum he began his career in 1939 practicing law in San Diego, California. In 1954 he and a few of his clients launched FedMart, a membership retail chain and forerunner of Walmart, KMart and Target. After leaving FedMart in 1975, he founded The Price Company (Price Club) in 1976. Price Club, which merged with Costco in 1993, revolutionized consumer buying habits throughout the world providing greater value to retail consumers and business customers. Following the sale of The Price Company, Sol Price and his son Robert went on to start PriceSmart, a public company operating warehouse clubs in Central America and the Caribbean. Today, membership retail clubs comprise a $70 billion industry with more than 40 million members.

Sol Price was also a pioneer in real estate, starting one of the first real estate investment trusts (REIT’s) in California in the early 1970’s. Following the sale of The Price Company he formed another REIT with shopping center holdings throughout the United States. He also employed his real estate expertise in his philanthropic endeavors in San Diego, leading the development of library and recreation facilities, office space and housing in the community of City Heights.

Price was known especially for the care and dignity with which he treated employees. He paid high wages and offered generous benefits, earning their ongoing loyalty and trust. In fact, he mentored the current CEO of Costco, Jim Sinegal, who was a Price Club employee. Sol Price cared about his customers, viewing himself as their trustee and fiduciary.

Just as important, Sol Price had a profound commitment to social justice and reducing poverty. Throughout his life, he invested in philanthropic efforts that supported those in need, including the major urban development initiatives in the low-income City Heights area of San Diego. His legacy includes support for public policies aimed at poverty reduction, the role of nonprofit organizations in social services, access to a quality education and health care, and community improvement. He was a man of great integrity guided by his personal principles to improve the quality of life for the less fortunate.

He championed national public policy initiatives as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Urban Institute in Washington D.C.; as an active member of the Board of Governors of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; and as a member of the Consumer Advisory Board of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sol’s grandson, David, was a student in our school and graduated just this past May. His family came to know more about our mission at commencement, where they saw firsthand the extraordinary faculty and students who represent that mission. In the time since, we have engaged in many thoughtful conversations about a gift that would benefit the school and enable us to further Sol’s legacy.

So, effective tomorrow, November 29, 2011, our school will be known as the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

This naming gift will also be used to launch the Sol Price Center for Social Innovation, an ongoing collaboration between the school and the Price Family Charitable Fund.

The Fund has worked since 1983 to transform low-income, urban areas, particularly through active engagement in City Heights. The Fund has supported a holistic approach to community development, including housing, retail, education, transportation, employment and healthcare.

With our school’s academic rigor and practice-based expertise, we can work together to develop viable, sustainable models of community development that can be replicated in other neighborhoods across the country, as well as foster a national dialogue on social and urban development policies.

The Center will provide a fertile ground for first-hand learning for our students, a test-bed for faculty research, and an on-the-ground implementation of our school’s mission — an opportunity we are excited to begin.

I want to take a moment to address the decision to modify the name of our school, which was not taken lightly, and was done in discussion with the Price family and University leadership. Our intention was to choose a name that effectively positioned our school for future growth and achievement.

Since 1998, our name reflected three key academic fields, but was not all-inclusive of our disciplines. While the name was meaningful within the school and our immediate family, it was cumbersome and confusing to all outside audiences. Media rarely used it in its entirety, and when participating in professional meetings with peer academic institutions and approaching outside donors for support, our name raised questions and confusion more often than not.

It was paramount to consider options that would more simply and practically define our focus and purpose to critical audiences we need to reach.

After long deliberation, we chose to identify as a School of Public Policy because the term best reflects an understanding of the evolving, interdisciplinary approach to societal problem solving that is at the core of our mission.

Today marks a great milestone and turning point in our school’s history, one that has come about because of the extraordinary achievements of our past, and one that holds the promise of even greater success in the future. I invite you to join me in celebrating this momentous day for our exceptional school.

USC President Nikias will hold special campus and school events to celebrate this wonderful gift on February 7, 2012. You will have an opportunity to meet Sol’s son Robert Price and his wife, Allison, and honor their family for their extraordinary generosity and belief in our School. Details will follow, but please mark your calendar now and plan to attend.

Finally, today we acknowledge all that we have accomplished together as a school, and warmly and enthusiastically welcome the Price Family Charitable Fund as partners, collaborators and friends. They join with us to work toward a common purpose that both honors Sol Price and improves the quality of life for people and communities in a meaningful and sustainable way, for generations to come.

Together, we will accomplish great things.


Jack H. Knott, Dean
USC Sol Price School of Public Policy