Town and Gown of USC is a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation formed to support the University of Southern California through student scholarships, building and campus enhancements, and cultural programs. Initially established in 1904 as The Women’s Club of the University of Southern California, Town and Gown of USC is also the oldest women’s organization at USC. Our members are from the community, “Town,” and from the university administration, faculty, research, and professional staff, “Gown.”
The first endowed scholarship was established in 1958, growing to 200 fully-endowed scholarships today. Carolyn and Carl Franklin were vital to this expansion. Our endowment has over $69 million and is used exclusively for merit-based scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students at USC. Town and Gown of USC awards approximately $1,700,000 to 170 students every year. Town and Gown of USC truly makes a difference!
Many people are not familiar with our organization but know first-hand about the beautiful Town and Gown Building. This building is often called the “living room of the university” because it is in perpetual use by the Trojan Family. In 1935, the women of Town and Gown of USC showed great foresight by building this magnificent reception hall and dining room with catering and performance amenities, and the ability to accommodate up to 700 guests. A year later, Mary Omerod Harris donated funds to add the Little Chapel of Silence adjoining the Town and Gown foyer. The women knew the building would have a lasting impact on the university.
These same women had recognized the need for a women’s residence hall in 1925. With support from Elisabeth von KleinSmid, they built the residence for 100 women. What an extraordinary group of women! A few years later, to honor Mrs. von KleinSmid, they raised money for the Elisabeth von KleinSmid Memorial Building Fund, which created the women’s dormitory later known as “EVK.”
If you have heard the chimes ringing on campus, the sound is from the Carillon in the tower of The Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow Center for International and Public Affairs. Town and Gown of USC purchased this Carillon in memory of Elisabeth and President von KleinSmid in 1965, and the campus community still enjoys the sound over fifty years later.
The members of Town and Gown of USC have continued to give generously to support ongoing building and campus improvements. Some projects are large, such as a $200,000 gift to the new Ronald Tutor Campus Center in 2007. Some are smaller, such as the update of the President’s Room at the Widney Alumni House in 1999.
Perhaps, the most endearing gifts are to the Town and Gown Building itself. We have lovingly redecorated by furnishing beveled glass doors and beautiful stained glass windows. In 2004, we held our Centennial celebrations in this elegant space that reminded us of earlier women who had made it all possible.
We continue to advance in many ways. We have a presence on the web; over 800 members; a dynamic President, Board of Directors, and committee structure; and indispensable partnerships with the university and our donors.
Because of the generous support of our members and friends, we recently paid in full our million-dollar pledge to cover the restoration of the walkways, gardens, and patio of our beloved Town and Gown Building. Most importantly, this pledge names the Town and Gown Building in perpetuity. We are preserving what matters to us and to the generations that will follow. Our journey from 1904 is one of distinction, and we look forward to what lies ahead.
Oral History of Town & Gown of USC
by Sally Edwards