$25 million cumulative gift to transform industrial and systems engineering at USC

USC Trustee and alumnus Daniel Epstein has built on his longstanding, generous support by investing another $14 million to grow programs at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. (Photo/Courtesy of Daniel Epstein)


$25 million cumulative gift to transform industrial and systems engineering at USC

USC alumnus Daniel J. Epstein’s ongoing support will fund top research expertise in areas such as optimization, machine learning and AI, and harnessing data to solve society’s most urgent problems.

October 11, 2021 Greta Harrison

A new gift to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering totaling $14 million will significantly grow recruitment of expert faculty members in industrial and systems engineering (ISE), with a focus on interdisciplinary areas such as computational systems, machine learning and artificial intelligence. The gift will also catalyze the modernization of the facilities that house the Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

The gift is part of $25 million in cumulative support that USC Trustee Daniel J. Epstein has contributed to USC to build capacity and expand the university’s impact in ISE research, teaching and learning. The latest contribution comes nearly 20 years after Epstein made history with a naming gift to establish the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering — the first-named department at USC and the largest naming gift for any ISE department in the United States at the time.

“Dan Epstein has been an incredible friend and benefactor to USC — especially our department of industrial and systems engineering,” President Carol L. Folt said. “His gifts have already transformed the department and given a huge boost to the groundbreaking work it advances every single day. But this most recent gift takes that support to a new level and will ensure that the department continues its legacy of addressing society’s greatest challenges. We’re so grateful for his decades of generosity.”

The endowment will enable the Epstein ISE department to embark on an ambitious plan to expand research excellence, enhance student experiences, increase diversity and renovate its facilities. Key objectives include the strategic hiring of an additional seven exceptional researchers and educators and housing the Epstein Department in one collaborative space renovated to meet the standards of an up-to-date teaching and research facility. The gift will also provide increased support for doctoral student fellowships.

“My education in industrial and systems engineering at USC has provided a strong foundation for my career success,” said Epstein, who earned his bachelor’s degree with honors at USC Viterbi in 1962. “I am honored to continue to support this department so that it may strengthen and advance its capacity to recruit the most excellent faculty and create the best educational outcomes for the future leaders in the field.”

The plan aims to build research capacity in emerging interdisciplinary fields aligned with ISE, such as:

  • Computational systems and optimization: harnessing artificial intelligence and mathematical programming for innovation and improved decision making.
  • Statistics, stochastic systems and machine learning: analytics and simulation methods that harness and apply massive amounts of data to serve society.
  • Operations and systems engineering: using advanced mathematical models and algorithms to solve emerging problems and grand challenges.

The department will recruit new faculty members with expertise in addressing the grand challenges facing society in health care, supply chains, security and other critical areas.

Gift enables a new home for ISE at USC

Thanks to the new gift, the department will make its new home in the renovated Salvatori Center, following the completion of the new Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Building. The new facility will be designed to promote collaboration, learning and innovation through modern, flexible spaces for conversations, networking, meetings and project-based teamwork.

“The continuous, extraordinary generosity of Dan Epstein to the ISE Department and the Viterbi School has helped us reach new levels of excellence and achievement,” USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos said. “His new visionary gift will create new innovations in education and research in this field for the benefit of our students and for society at large. We are fortunate to have Dan and his family supporting our quest for the exploration of new frontiers.”

Epstein’s decades of dedicated support have elevated and transformed research and teaching in the department at an elite level, said Dean’s Professor and Epstein Department Chair Maged Dessouky.

“The new gift will escalate the recruitment of exceptional professors — experts in the use of optimization, artificial intelligence, systems engineering and data analytics to solve society’s most pressing problems,” he said.

Epstein’s initial gift led to a period of rapid growth for the department, said Randolph Hall, Dean’s Professor at USC Viterbi and former department chair and vice president for research at USC. He said that the latest gift was a result of strategic planning and careful benchmarking, as well as invaluable input from the Department Advisory Board, which Epstein chairs.

“Just like Dan’s initial gift 20 years ago, the first focus of this gift will be on growing excellence through recruitment of outstanding faculty, including chaired professors,” Hall said. “USC executed on the initial plan, and the new gift will take us to an even higher level.”

USC Viterbi alumnus committed to giving back

Epstein is the founder of the ConAm Group, headquartered in San Diego, and has led a distinguished career as a real estate entrepreneur. The Epstein family has been longtime supporters of USC, contributing many other substantial gifts including donations to establish the Epstein Family Alumni Center, the USC Epstein Family Center for Sports Medicine and the Epstein Family Plaza at USC Viterbi.

Since Epstein’s initial naming gift in 2002, the Epstein ISE Department has grown in scope and impact, with strengths in areas such as computational and data-centric decision making, health care policy, transportation and optimization. Departmental research has contributed to policy and real-world benefits in areas such as resource allocation for social welfare, health care, transportation, security, e-commerce and the environment.

Department faculty members hold leadership roles in major research centers such as the METRANS Transportation Consortium, the USC Center for Advanced Manufacturing, the USC Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society, the USC Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Threats and Emergencies and many more.

Epstein’s endowment to the department over two decades has enabled the establishment of chairs, scholarships and the founding of the Daniel J. Epstein Institute. Most recently, in 2020, Epstein’s support for ISE led to the launching of a new Master of Science degree in health systems management engineering aimed at equipping industrial engineers with unique skills to address the urgent needs of an increasingly strained U.S. health care sector — needs that have become even more pressing due to COVID-19. The support has enabled the development of a new curriculum, recruitment of expert faculty members, tailored learning spaces and scholarships for students.