USC Board of Trustees honors Wanda Austin’s leadership as interim president

University leaders recognize the aerospace and systems engineer for guiding USC through a tumultuous year and create an endowed scholarship in her honor.

June 07, 2019 Eric Lindberg

The USC Board of Trustees honored the leadership and guidance of Wanda M. Austin this week as her term as the university’s interim president nears its conclusion.

During a meeting of USC’s governing board, university leaders unveiled a portrait of Austin on the wall of presidents at Bovard Administration Building. Trustees also donated more than $1.5 million as a group to establish an endowed scholarship in her honor.

“We are forever grateful to Dr. Austin for the courage, leadership and grace she has shown guiding USC through the most challenging period in our 140-year history,” said Rick Caruso, chair of the USC Board of Trustees. “She made the tough decisions leading to a significant shift in culture that emphasizes our highest ideals of compassion, inclusion, equality and excellence.”

Austin will continue in her role as USC’s president until June 30 and will collaborate with President-elect Carol L. Folt to ensure a seamless transition. She will remain a USC trustee, a position she has held since 2010.

It was truly an honor to lead this great university during its critical period of transition.

Wanda M. Austin

“It was truly an honor to lead this great university during its critical period of transition,” Austin said in a message to the Trojan Family. “Our community has faced significant challenges, but we are moving in the right direction. During my tenure as interim president, one of my primary responsibilities was to help improve our campus culture. I knew change wasn’t going to happen overnight, but I was determined to set the course and leave things better than I found them.”

During her leadership of the university, Austin established the President’s Culture Commission and launched the USC Office of Professionalism and Ethics, among other efforts to strengthen USC’s commitment to accountability, wellness and transparency. Her achievements were lauded during the university’s recent commencement ceremony, when Caruso presented her with a surprise honorary degree.

Another surprise came this week when the board announced the creation of the Wanda M. Austin Endowed Scholarship. The mission of the scholarship is simple: Funds will support students with financial need.

A successful businesswoman who led The Aerospace Corp. as president and CEO, Austin is internationally known for her expertise in aeronautics and systems engineering. She earned her doctorate in systems engineering from USC, in addition to a degree in mathematics from Franklin & Marshall College and master’s degrees in systems engineering and mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh.

Austin made history as the first woman and first African American to lead The Aerospace Corp., a role she held for eight years during a career with the nonprofit science and technology company that spanned four decades.

She broke new ground again as the first woman and African American to lead USC as president with her appointment by the USC Board of Trustees in August 2018. Austin’s contributions to the university were recognized in 2018 with the USC Presidential Medallion, the university’s highest honor.