Steven B. Sample

October 16, 2002

Sample goes ‘naked’ for speech at café
By Sophia Kazmi
USC Daily Trojan Staff Writer
Media Credit : Abran Rubiner | Daily Trojan
Talk: President shares his priorities as part of “What Matters to Me and Why” series

Looky here. Marcel Hall, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism, interviews USC President Steven B. Sample outside GroundZero Coffeehouse about his speech.

USC President Steven B. Sample got “naked” with his audience, revealing his intimate views and personal details Wednesday afternoon at GroundZero Coffeehouse.

Sample said he was not just going to say things for the sake of giving a speech. Instead, he said he was going to tell people what they wanted to hear.

“You can hide behind a set of conventional values or ‘go naked’ in public,” he said.

He said he hoped his speech focused on the latter, and he talked about the most important things in his life as part of the “What Matters to Me and Why” series.

He said family was important to him, and he and his wife do their best to keep the family together. His own parents divorced after 26 years of marriage when Sample was 19, and it affected him deeply.

“It was the most devastating thing that ever happened to me,” Sample said.

His parents’ divorce affected him more than when his sister committed suicide, he said. But he said he thought the two tragic events in his life were related.

He and his wife’s goal was to create a strong family foundation for their two daughters, he said.

While episcopalian religion played an important part in his life, he now focused on moving toward contemplative religion, Sample said, rather than conventional prayer. He defined contemplative as listening to an individual’s conscious, but many people may be afraid to approach religion that way.

“We’re afraid to hear something we don’t want to hear,” he said.

Sample said he enjoyed the simple rituals of religion because they allowed him to find a sense of humility to balance the ego that was necessary for his job as president — a job that was also important to him.

He felt good about the work he does because it was his contribution to education, Sample said. The role of president defined him as an individual and became a part of him, he added.

“I’m not sure it’s healthy, but I know it’s true,” Sample said.

Teaching was important to him, and he said he only wanted to take the job as president at USC if the administration would allow him to teach as well. He loved having students to call his own.

Teaching gave him the opportunity to do either a great job or not, Sample said.

“You get instant gratification or instant humiliation,” he said.

He enjoyed USC because it was not a profit-seeking corporation, he said.

“The values of the university are very different than the values of a typical corporation,” Sample said.

He saw teaching as an “unselfish act of love,” he added.

Speakers for the series were nominated and selected by an 11-member student steering committee. Along with brainstorming new ideas for the series, the panel decided upon the date and location of each event and worked with Rabbi Susan Laemmle, dean of Religious Life, to publicize the program.

Although organizers had to work around a scheduling conflict, Laemmle said the process of recruiting Sample to speak was no different than that for any other previous participant.

Sample was both nominated and introduced at Wednesday’s program by Rocio Garcia, a junior majoring in sociology and Spanish. Garcia worked in the president’s office.

The program’s success attested to an intrinsic change in the school, Laemmle said.

“Outside the classroom, people are more interested in learning and having significant experiences, not just hanging out,” she said.

The series continues Nov. 6 with Eliz Sanasarian, professor of political science, and concludes for the semester Dec. 4 with Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, associate professor of sociology.

Writers Adam Earnhart and Barbara Burdette contributed to this story.

Copyright 2002 by the Daily Trojan. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Vol. 147, No. 37 (Thursday, October 17, 2002), beginning on page 1 and ending on page 14.