sager designs

About Lesley and Sager Designs


Steven B. Sample became the 10th president of the University of Southern California in March 1991. He is the university’s first holder of the Robert C. Packard President’s Chair.

Sample is an electrical engineer, a musician, an outdoorsman, an author, and an inventor.  In February 1998 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his contributions to consumer electronics and leadership in interdisciplinary research and education.  In 2003 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in recognition of his accomplishments as a university president.

He remains an active member of USC’s faculty, co-teaching with management expert Warren Bennis a popular course for juniors and seniors titled “The Art and Adventure of Leadership.”  His book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, has been a Los Angeles Times best-seller, was named one of six “must-reads” for leaders by Harvard Management Update of the Harvard Business School, and has been translated into five languages. He donates all royalties to a scholarship fund for USC undergraduates.

Under Sample’s leadership, USC has become world-renowned in the fields of communication and multimedia technologies, received national acclaim for its innovative community partnerships, and solidified its status as one of the nation’s leading research universities.  

USC milestones in the past 15 years include conducting a national-record-setting fundraising campaign and receiving five gifts of $100 million or more, an achievement unmatched by any other university in the nation; the awarding of the Nobel Prize in chemistry to USC faculty member George Olah; being named College of the Year 2000 by Time magazine; and the recruitment of one of the most academically talented freshman classes in the nation.

Sample is the author of numerous journal articles and published papers in science and engineering and higher education.  His patents in the field of digital appliance controls have been licensed to practically every major manufacturer of appliance controls and microwave ovens in the world.  Over 300 million home appliances have been built using his inventions.

Sample has chaired a number of statewide and national groups examining the state of elementary, secondary, and higher education.  In 1994 he convened a group of Los Angeles leaders which was awarded a historic $53 million challenge grant from the Annenberg Foundation to accelerate reforms in local public schools.  Sample co-founded the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), a consortium of 34 premier Pacific Rim research universities located in 15 countries.  He is a past chairman of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of the 63 leading North American research universities.  He chaired a special AAU committee on postdoctoral education, and co-chaired an AAU task force on increasing protection for human subjects in university-based research.

Sample came to USC from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he had served as president since 1982.

Sample earned B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  He has received honorary doctorates from the State University of New York at Buffalo (2006), the University of Notre Dame (2005), Northeastern University (2004), the University of Nebraska (1995), Purdue University (1994), Hebrew Union College (1994), the University of Sheffield, England (1991), and Canisius College, Buffalo (1989).

The recipient of numerous awards, Sample recently received the Distinguished Business Leader Award from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Heart of the City Award from the Central City Association of Los Angeles, and the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, the highest award bestowed by the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has also received the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews (now the National Conference for Community and Justice), the Hollzer Memorial Award from the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, the Eddy Award for excellence in economic development from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, and the University of Illinois’ Alumni Achievement Award.

Sample is married to the former Kathryn Brunkow of Park Ridge, III.  The Samples have two daughters and two grandchildren.

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