$10 million gift creates new opportunities for veterans at USC

March 28, 2012 By USC News staff

USC trustee William J. Schoen ’60, MBA ’63 and his wife, Sharon, have made a $10 million gift to the university in support of military veteran scholarships.

The Schoen Family Scholarship Program for Veterans Endowment was established at USC in 1986. Their recent $10 million gift, announced at the annual USC Veterans Appreciation Dinner on March 27, will increase the endowment significantly and create new funding for veterans who attend USC. The gift provides additional support for veterans studying at the USC Marshall School of Business, as well as the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

With the most recent gift, the Schoen family has contributed a total of $16 million, and to date the endowment has provided $1.2 million in financial support to 173 students at the university.

USC President C. L. Max Nikias noted the impact of the Schoens’ support for veterans at a time when members of the U.S. armed forces are returning home in large numbers.

“The Schoens’ long-standing dedication to our nation’s military veterans will always inspire the USC community,” Nikias said. “The Schoens understand that these brave service members have contributed so much to our country’s collective security and deserve a world-class education – one that matches their world-class courage.”

At the dinner, Nikias recounted USC’s history of accommodating veterans and military students, from enrolling thousands of them just after World War II to maintaining the university’s relationship with the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) during the 1970s when almost every other university did not. USC’s current population is 500 veteran students, 370 of whom receive some form of financial aid.

For William Schoen, the gift provides new opportunities for returning veterans to pursue their education at USC, which had a major impact on his career and life.

“I believe that our veterans deserve an excellent education at an outstanding university,” said Schoen, who attended USC after serving in the U.S. Marines in Korea from 1953 to 1956. “Our support for veterans goes back to when I went to USC. The reason that I was able to go to USC was that I applied for a scholastic scholarship and was awarded one.”

Schoen is chairman of the board of Health Management Associates, a Florida-based corporation that owns and operates hospitals primarily in the southeastern and southwestern United States. Previously, he was the corporation’s president and CEO.

“Bill and Sharon Schoen have been great friends of the USC Marshall School of Business for more than three decades, and they embody the spirit of patriotism,” said James G. Ellis, dean of USC Marshall. “We will continue to see the enduring impact of their philanthropy on generations of students.”

Aren Nazarians MBA ’10, a Marine veteran who received support from the Schoen endowment, said: “My education at USC would not be possible without the generosity of my benefactor, William Schoen. The unique thing about a scholarship is the personal connection between the donor and the recipient. As students, we know that a scholarship is not a handout, and we owe it to our donors to make that investment count.”

Karla Leyva, a senior at the USC Leventhal School of Accounting who served two tours of duty in Iraq in the U.S. Army, said support from the endowment has benefited her in myriad ways.

“This scholarship allowed me to attend USC and to graduate without loans,” Leyva said. “I’m so grateful to the Schoen family. They have helped me to accomplish my goals.”

At the dinner, Nikias and USC Board of Trustees chairman Edward P. Roski Jr., presented the Schoens with a special resolution of commendation. Nikias also acknowledged Nazarians and Rear Adm. Michael P. Tillotson, commander of the U.S. Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, as guest speakers, and commended two Trojans who will retire this year from the ROTC program at USC: Lt. Col. Jason Ohta, who commands 67 cadets enrolled in Air Force ROTC, and Col. Alvah Ingersoll ’82, who serves as commanding officer of Naval ROTC and is professor of naval science at USC.