USC’s trustees elected Suzanne Nora Johnson on Thursday to be the subsequent chair of its board of trustees, placing a former Goldman Sachs govt with deep expertise in operating company and philanthropic boards to succeed developer Rick Caruso.
Johnson is the primary lady to occupy the highest oversight put up on the non-public college, and she or he assumes the position at a time when USC is rising from years of scandal and inside reforms, recovering from upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic and, like different universities and companies, dealing with rising inflation and a possible recession.
Caruso introduced in February that he deliberate to step down to run to be the subsequent mayor of Los Angeles, and he faces off towards Rep. Karen Bass within the November election. He had served as chair because the spring of 2018, when he was tapped to steer USC out of a disaster triggered by revelations of serial sexual abuse by a former campus gynecologist and a wave of dissatisfaction by school, employees and college students over ethos and path of the college.
Below Caruso, the board compelled out a once-beloved president; employed a brand new president, Carol Folt; resolved civil litigation involving the gynecologist’s former sufferers for $1.1 billion; changed scores of key directors; and navigated a raft of scandals associated to fraudulent admissions, athletics and sexual misconduct.
“We’ve gotten by way of the fireplace. We’ve come out a greater college, with higher administration, and financially in a powerful place,” Caruso mentioned in an interview. “I’m delighted to cross the baton to Suzanne.”
Johnson joined USC’s board of trustees in 1998, and for a lot of the time on the board, trustees gave a large berth to the college’s president and administration on inside affairs.
That modified in 2018, and Johnson was amongst a handful of trustees who advocated for reforms in how USC’s board conceived of their position, from that of serving primarily as monetary stewards to offering extra lively oversight and accountability throughout the training and healthcare enterprises.
Johnson and one other trustee spearheaded a research on board governance that led to the rewriting of USC’s bylaws, imposition of time period limits on trustees, and a gradual halving of the board’s measurement. Below the brand new polices, Johnson can stay a voting trustee till 2028. In an interview this week, Johnson mentioned the board would proceed to appraise its successes and failures.
“We’ve realized loads about how vigilant it’s important to be in a big, advanced establishment, and what methods, course of and folks you want in place to stop that,” she mentioned. “Actually good reform is dynamic, and as totally different points come up, you take a look at the muscle that you just’ve constructed of excellent governance.”
In contrast with when she first joined the board, the trustees have been now extra collaborative, engaged and keen to disagree. “It’s not depending on one or two personalities,” she mentioned.
Folt, who was named president in 2019, mentioned Caruso was a “fantastic accomplice” in operating the college and was key in her transition to Southern California, introducing her to enterprise and political leaders.
“He was all the time there at any second with enter,” Folt mentioned. “He was additionally understanding that when you get going, it’s worthwhile to have autonomy.”
“I anticipate with Suzanne: extra of the identical with a really totally different individual,” Folt added, noting that she had labored intently with Johnson, who chaired the searches to rent USC’s new athletic director and chief funding officer.
Within the coming years, Folt mentioned, USC plans to deal with affordability, modify compensation for school and employees in order that the college pays a aggressive wage and retain “values-driven individuals.” She additionally mentioned USC was embarking on a 10-year initiative on computation and synthetic intelligence, and that extra assets and fundraising could be dedicated to the well being sciences campus in Boyle Heights, the place USC plans to construct a brand new, devoted analysis tower.
Johnson graduated from USC in 1979 and earned her regulation diploma from Harvard Regulation Faculty. She joined the Goldman Sachs Group and over twenty years rose to vice chairman and membership on the corporate’s administration committee. She was the highest-ranking lady on the agency when she introduced her retirement in 2007 — a transfer that occasioned the Wall Avenue Journal to call her a “Goldman Sachs star.”
Along with main USC’s board, Johnson is co-chair of the Brookings Establishment, board chair of Intuit, and a member of the board of administrators at Pfizer. Johnson mentioned she had just lately concluded her tenure as a director at Visa and trustee on the Carnegie Establishment of Washington to allow extra time to serve at USC.
Johnson mentioned she deliberate to work towards Folt’s agenda of entry, affordability and sustainability. She additionally mentioned she needed USC’s scientific and theoretical analysis agenda to be “pushed tougher.”
Trustees, she mentioned, have been additionally aware of tending to the long-term welfare of the college, which is L.A.’s largest non-public employer.
“You might want to have a wholesome establishment to have the ability to survive and thrive within the years forward,” she mentioned. “By wholesome, I imply culturally wholesome, economically sustainable, appropriately accountable from an environmental perspective, and together with all kinds of communities that contemplate themselves a part of the Trojan household.”