Steven B. Sample

Steven B. Sample
Steven B. Sample

Innovative leader in higher education; Model administrator, teacher and researcher; Award-winning scientist and inventor of digital appliance controls used in appliances and microwave ovens worldwide.

Under Steven B. Sample’s leadership as President of the University of Southern California from 1991 to 2010, USC solidiied its status as one of the nation’s leading research universities and emerged as a world leader in the fields of communication, multimedia technologies, and life sciences. He made “breadth with depth” the hallmark of undergraduate education at USC, encouraging all students to develop the kind of intellectual lexibility displayed by the best thinkers of the Renaissance. Sample came to USC from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where under his presidency SUNY achieved standing as a member of the Association of American Universities.

A tenured professor in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, Sample has been awarded USC’s highest faculty honor, the rank of University Professor, in recognition of his achievements. Sample is the author of numerous journal articles and 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.

Sample is a past chair of the Association of American Universities and also has chaired a number of state and national groups examining the status of elementary, secondary, and higher education. In 1994, he convened a group of Los Angeles leaders awarded a historic $53 million challenge grant from the Annenberg Foundation to accelerate reforms in local public schools. To capitalize on the emerging prominence of the Pacific Rim, Sample co-founded the Association of Paciic Rim Universities, a consortium of 42 premier Paciic Rim research universities located in 15 countries that fosters international collaboration among faculty, students, and university leaders.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Sample has received several honorary doctorates and numerous awards for his contributions to higher education, engineering, and the nation. His awards include the IEEE Founders Medal, 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 SUNY at Buffalo. He has also received the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Hollzer Memorial Award from the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, the Cardinal’s Award from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Eddy Award from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, and the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service from the College of Engineering at Illinois. In April of 2011, USC presented Sample with its highest honor, the Presidential Medallion.

Steven and Kathryn Sample Hall at USC is named in the honor of Sample and his wife, the former Kathryn Brunkow of Park Ridge, Illinois. In addition, Sample and his wife established the Renaissance Scholar Endowment, which supports juniors and seniors at USC who excel in widely disparate ields of study. Sample’s best-selling book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, has been translated into six languages; its royalties fund scholarships for USC undergraduates.


  • BS Electrical Engineering, 1962
  • MS Electrical Engineering, 1963
  • PhD Electrical Engineering, 1965