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Dr. Verna Dauterive considered USC the greatest influence on her life when she attended the school in the late 1940s and now 60 years later, she has repaid them with the largest single donation an African-American has given to a university.
Last weekend, USC president Steven B. Sample announced to the USC Black Alumni Association that Dr. Dauterive had donated $25 million in the memory of her late husband, Peter Dauterive.
“This is a history making gift,” Sample said, “We are tremendously grateful to Dr. Verna Dauterive—an alumna who personifies excellence in her professional and civic life—for honoring her alma mater in this way.
At press time, the only known details of the donation are that a portion of it would go towards scholarships. According to the terms, the money will be transferred over the next few years and after her death.
The donation surpasses the $20 million that entertainer Bill Cosby and his wife Camille donated to Spelman College in 1987 and ranks among the top dozen donations that USC has received in its history.
It was the culmination of a dream that the Dauterives had shared and a story that starts for Dr. Dauterive in 1943 after she graduated from Wiley College in Texas. She moved to California to become a teacher and while doing so, she received her master’s and doctorate in education at USC.
In 1947, she met her future husband Peter, then a business student with aid from the GI Bill, in the basement of the school’s Doheny Memorial Library. The two Louisiana natives had an instant chemistry and it sparked a relationship that lasted 55 years, until Peter Dauterive’s passing in 2002.
Following the career of her mother, a school principal in Shreveport, La., Dauterive first served as an administrator in the city’s voluntary busing program of sending Black students to predominately White schools and then beginning a 23-year tenure as principal of Franklin Avenue Elementary School.
At her retirement in 2005, she was honored for her 62 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Peter Dauterive also made his mark in Los Angeles as a successful banker and investor. He was the founding president/CEO of the Founders Savings and Loan Association in the heart of the Crenshaw community after many other lenders left in the wake of the Watts riots in 1965.
It was through his investments in various projects that the couple accrued their wealth and eventually they settled in the View Park neighborhood, where Dr. Dauterive still lives today.
But it was their experiences at USC that forever shaped them. Despite their individual success, the two actively looked for a way to give back and had previously donated close to $2 million, which included a scholarship in their name for minority students that pursued a doctorate in education.
Since the couple had devoted their lives to helping people through their careers, it was only fitting that they used their resources to give back to the place where their dreams united.
Dauterive added that she would use most of her remaining wealth to make further donations to Howard University, where her brother attended dental school, and other charities in the future.
She mentioned to a reporter that she hopes the endowment will inspire other USC Black alumni to give back “what they can afford to contribute.”
Currently, USC has a five percent African-American undergraduate student body, a number greater than UCLA (3.3 percent). With this donation, future generations of students will know about the Dauterive legacy not just at USC, but also in Los Angeles.