Verna B. Dauterive MEd ’49, EdD ’66, USC trustee, longtime educator and namesake of USC’s Dr. Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall, died on June 1 in Los Angeles of natural causes. She was 93.
Dauterive was an inspirational and influential educator who shared with her late husband, Peter W. Dauterive ’49, a lifelong devotion to giving back to USC and the Los Angeles community. The couple had met while studying in the basement stacks of Doheny Memorial Library in 1943, and remained avid supporters of the university throughout their lives.
“Verna Dauterive was a remarkable individual and stellar role model—not only at USC, but in the broader communities of education and philanthropy,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “She touched so many in our Trojan Family with her profound integrity, generosity of spirit, and sheer dedication to excellence. Her extraordinary legacy is assured, and generations from now, our students will continue to learn the inspiring story of Verna and Peter Dauterive, as the graceful building that bears their names will forever stand at the heart of our campus.”
Dauterive’s six-decade career with Los Angeles Unified School District began in 1943, when she was hired as its youngest teacher. She was one of only four African Americans employed to teach in the district at the time. She moved from teaching into administrative positions and ultimately was appointed principal of Franklin Avenue Elementary School in Los Feliz, a job she held for 23 years. Among her administrative roles were positions as superintendent’s coordinator of integration programs and administrator of university relations.
While teaching, Dauterive took night and weekend classes at the USC Rossier School of Education to earn her master’s and doctoral degrees. In a Los Angeles Sentinel interview in 2012, she credited USC with giving her a superior education and life-changing experience that guided her and her husband throughout their lives together. They were married for 53 years before Peter Dauterive passed away in 2002.
In 2008, she was named an honorary trustee of USC and committed $30 million to the university in memory of her husband, who was the founding president and CEO of Founders Savings & Loan Association. The gift created and named the first interdisciplinary social sciences building at USC, Dauterive Hall, which officially opened in September 2014.
Believing in the importance of reaching back to help those who followed her, Dauterive taught as an adjunct professor at USC Rossier and helped found the school’s first support group, EDUCARE. She led the drive to create the school’s first endowed faculty position and was instrumental to the hiring of all USC Rossier deans since 1973. She also belonged to the school’s Alumni and Support Association and Board of Councilors. USC Rossier honored her with its Recognition of Outstanding Support for Education Award in 1995.
In addition to supporting educational causes, the Dauterives dedicated themselves to helping minority students. In 1975, Verna Dauterive was one of a small group of alumni who formed the nucleus of what is now the USC Black Alumni Association, and her husband was its first major donor. In 1985, the couple endowed the Dr. Verna B. Dauterive and Peter W. Dauterive Scholarship — the university’s first scholarship for minority doctoral students in education.
The couple gave broadly to the university, supporting the USC Marshall School of Business, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, the USC School of Dramatic Arts, USC Libraries and the USC Price School of Public Policy.
She served on the boards of the USC Associates and the USC Alumni Association and was a life member of Town & Gown as well as a chairman-level member of the USC Associates. The USC Alumni Association twice recognized her with its Alumni Service Award. In 2013, she received the Presidential Medallion, USC’s top honor.
Dauterive was born in 1922 in LeCompte, Louisiana. Her mother was principal of a blacks-only school, and her father was a Pullman train porter. Dauterive enrolled at USC in 1943, soon after receiving her bachelor’s degree from Texas’ Wiley College, a historically black college. Her USC doctoral dissertation was a historical-legal study of integration in U.S. public schools — a subject she was encouraged to study by D. Lloyd Nelson, one of her professors.
“Dr. Nelson took a special interest in each and every student — as professors at USC still do — but he took a special interest in me,” she recalled. “He encouraged me to think about this as a topic that would be important to the city, state and country.”
In the years since, law students nationwide have widely used her dissertation as a reference.
Dauterive went on to influence education policy in California, chairing the state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing and the Commission on the Status of Women for two terms each.
Even into her 90s, Dauterive remained active in several Los Angeles-based civic organizations and attended as many USC-related events as she could. She relished philanthropy and giving back to the community — a lesson, she said, that her parents instilled in her and the university reinforced.
“USC taught me the best definition of leadership,” she reflected at a luncheon after the opening of Dauterive Hall. “One hand stretched before you to take the hand of those who went before, and one hand stretched behind you to take the hand of those yet to come.”