The oldest support group on the USC Campus, Town and Gown is 106 years old with a remarkable record of contributions to the University. The growth and development of the organization during that time is legendary.
The History of Town and Gown of USC
Town and Gown of the University of Southern California (“Town and Gown”) is a non-profit, 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 is 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 over 180 fully endowed scholarships today. Carolyn and Carl Franklin were vital to this expansion. Our endowment has over 43 million dollars and is used exclusively for merit-based scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students at USC. For the 2017-2018 academic year, we awarded over $1.48 million to 150 students. Town and Gown 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 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 Elizabeth von KleinSmid Center. Town and Gown purchased this Carillon in memory of Elisabeth and President von KleinSmid in 1965 and the campus community still enjoys the sound fifty years later.
The members of Town and Gown have continued to give generously to support ongoing building and campus improvements. Some projects are large, such as a two hundred thousand gift to the new 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.
Thirteen years later, we have advanced in many ways. We have a presence on the web, over 800 members, a dynamic President, Board of Directors and committee structure, and indispensible partnerships with the university and our donors.
We have moved into the next millennium in countless ways, but are ever mindful of the legacy of our organization. We have made a million dollar pledge to cover the restoration of the walkways, gardens, and patio of our beloved Town and Gown Building. This pledge most importantly 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.