The University of Southern California (USC[a]) is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university founded in 1880 with its main campus in the city area of Los Angeles, California. As California's oldest private research university, USC has historically educated a large number of the region's business leaders and professionals. In recent decades, the university has also leveraged its location in Los Angeles to establish relationships with research and cultural institutions throughout Asia and the Pacific Rim. In 2011, USC was named among the Top 10 Dream Colleges in the nation. It holds a vast array of trademarks and wordmarks to the term "USC."
For the 2014-2015 academic year, there were 19,000 students enrolled in four-year undergraduate programs. USC is also home to 23,000 graduate and professional students in a number of different programs, including business, law, social work, and medicine. The university has a "very high" level of research activity and received $646 million in sponsored research from 2014 to 2015. USC sponsors a variety of intercollegiate sports and competes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as a member of the Pacific-12 Conference. Members of the sports teams, the Trojans, have won 100 NCAA team championships, ranking them third in the nation, and 378 NCAA individual championships, ranking them second in the nation. Trojan athletes have won 287 medals at the Olympic games (135 golds, 87 silvers and 65 bronzes), more than any other university in the world. If USC were a country, it would rank 12th in most Olympic gold medals.
The University of Southern California was founded following the efforts of Judge Robert M. Widney, who helped secure donations from several figures in early Los Angeles history: a Protestant nurseryman, Ozro Childs, an Irish Catholic former-Governor, John Gately Downey, and a German Jewish banker, Isaias W. Hellman. The three donated 308 lots of land to establish the campus and provided the necessary seed money for the construction of the first buildings. Originally operated in affiliation with the Methodist Church, the school mandated from the start that "no student would be denied admission because of race." The university is no longer affiliated with any church, having severed formal ties in 1952.
When USC opened in 1880, tuition was $15.00 per term and students were not allowed to leave town without the knowledge and consent of the university president. The school had an enrollment of 53 students and a faculty of 10. The city lacked paved streets, electric lights, telephones, and a reliable fire alarm system. Its first graduating class in 1884 was a class of three—two males and female valedictorian Minnie C. Miltimore.
The colors of USC are cardinal and gold, which were approved by USC's third president, the Reverend George W. White, in 1896. In 1958 the shade of gold, which was originally more of an orange color, was changed to a more yellow shade. The letterman's awards were the first to make the change.[d]
USC students and athletes are known as Trojans, epitomized by the Trojan Shrine, nicknamed "Tommy Trojan", near the center of campus. Until 1912, USC students (especially athletes) were known as Fighting Methodists or Wesleyans, though neither name was approved by the university. During a fateful track and field meet with Stanford University, the USC team was beaten early and seemingly conclusively. After only the first few events, it seemed implausible that USC would ever win; however, the team fought back, winning many of the later events, to lose only by a slight margin. After this contest, Los Angeles Times sportswriter Owen Bird reported that the USC athletes "fought on like the Trojans of antiquity", and the president of the university at the time, George F. Bovard, approved the name officially.
During World War II, USC was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.
USC is responsible for $4 billion in economic output in Los Angeles County; USC students spend $406 million yearly in the local economy and visitors to the campus add another $12.3 million.
On May 1, 2014, USC was named as one of many higher education institutions under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights for potential Title IX violations by Barack Obama's White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.