Alumni Spotlight: Tomson Ong, MPA ’84, DPA ’92
By Kimberly Ueyama
Honorable Tomson T. Ong, MPA, ’84, DPA, ’92, is a true embodiment of what it means to be a member of the Trojan family. In addition to his work as a judge of the California Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, he offers support and advisement to the USC community through his dedicated commitment to the university and especially the USC Price School of Public Policy.
Ong’s career as a Trojan began with his undergraduate studies. His academic accolades continued with his law school education at Loyola Law School, and a return to USC to receive his master’s and doctoral degrees in public administration from Price. He also obtained his L.L.M. in Taxation from the University of San Diego School of Law. When asked what he learned from such extensive educational accomplishments, he simply shared that “experiences are cumulative.”
For Ong, experiences helped cement his devotion to public service, a field to which he has devoted his professional life. Before becoming a judge, he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for about a decade, as well as a Deputy City Attorney in Santa Ana, Calif. Over the past 20 years, Ong has also served as a judge advocate in the JAG Corps with the U.S. Army Reserve program.
“Each job gives me an opportunity to develop advocacy skills and an even temperament,” Ong noted.
These skills are especially advantageous in his current work as a California Superior Court judge, a position he has held since 1997. He presides over criminal trials that range from misdemeanor crimes to capital murder and death penalty trials. Though this can be a challenging assignment, Ong’s devotion to justice for litigants and all other involved parties, like the victims of crimes, motivated his decision to enter this field. He considers his position as an opportunity to evaluate the “big picture” of a situation, one that necessitates upholding the law and ensuring that all who enter his courtroom receive a fair trial.
“My SPPD education helps me understand the importance of duty,” Ong said. “As a judge, I am a trustee of the law and duty-bound to follow the law.”
Ong generously shares his philosophies and expertise with current students as a distinguished member of the adjunct faculty at Price, a role he has filled since 1989.
“An education at USC is an education about life,” Ong said. “SPPD is one school at USC that provides a great environment to groom young men and women to be the leaders of tomorrow.”
In addition to being a testament of this insight, Ong passes his knowledge to both undergraduate and graduate students through courses in contract management, administrative law, and crime and public policy.
“Faculty members have a fiduciary responsibility to pass on ideas to their students,” Ong explained. “Personally, I view myself as a servant-leader.”
A staunch believer in the Trojan family, Ong keeps in touch with his former students and is eager to form connections with SPPD students and alumni.
“The most important part of a USC education is becoming a member of the Trojan Family,” Ong said.
Through his commitment to the university and the skills he has gained as a student, professor and alumnus, Ong is an admirable example of servant leadership in action.