University of Southern California

Harry DeAngelo
Title
What I Love About My Job: Three Stories
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I have three stories to share about USC that are a bit off-beat, but will help you understand what I love about my job that is specific to USC. Before I tell those stories, let me start on a more conventional note and mention some general reasons why I love what I do. I have tenure at a world class university and I am well paid for studying and teaching corporate finance, a topic that I find extremely interesting. I have the privilege of teaching a steady stream of intelligent students who are highly motivated to learn about corporate finance. I pick research topics that interest me and drill deeply on them because I believe they are important, not because someone has ordered me to produce a study or set of results to their specification. It’s a great life, and a great livelihood.

So far, so good. But what is it about being at USC per se that is special to me? I won’t give you a general theory, but I will tell you three stories that should clarify why I feel good, and what I think about every time I walk from the parking lot past Doheny Library and Town and Gown on the way to my office in the Accounting building.

My mother-in law, Winnie Buckley, was a student at USC many years ago and she lived in Town and Gown when it was a dorm. Her daughter, Linda, who is my wife, also lived in the Town and Gown dorm when she was a freshman at USC. I think of both of them every time I walk past that building. I am reminded of the continuity of life, of course, and of the fact that Winnie is no longer with us. But I also always think about the reverence that Winnie had for USC and the “catch” in her voice that would always come when she spoke with gratitude about the scholarship that she received from USC that made it possible for her to go to college. She loved USC and she raised her daughter to believe that there was no better school on the face of the earth, and that it was a privilege and an honor to be able to study there.

Campus tour groups are pervasive at USC, and I often sneak up on them and hang out in the back and observe the prospective students and their parents as they learn about the school. I used to think to myself that the students look awfully young and, unfortunately, I have recently started to think the same thing about the parents. The main reason I like to eavesdrop is that the students are at such an exciting time in their lives. They are about to move into a new environment filled with unlimited possibilities and it makes me realize what a great privilege it is to work in an environment that has the ability to transform peoples’ lives in a remarkably powerful and positive way.

Michael Tilson Thomas is a graduate of USC’s Thornton School and now leads the San Francisco Symphony (http://www.michaeltilsonthomas.com/). Linda was a Voice major at the Thornton School during the time that Tilson Thomas was a student there. [How she came to be a chaired professor of finance in the Marshall School is a story for another time!] One day, she was reading the Daily Trojan and saw that Tilson Thomas was going to be working with the student orchestra at Thornton. Since it was an open rehearsal session, we went to observe. I was absolutely awestruck by Tilson Thomas’s ability to break the orchestra’s performance into components, refine each component in nuanced fashion, and build it back into a beautiful, cohesive whole. He showed a level of talent --- of greatness in the most fundamental sense --- that was breath-taking. Now, I won’t claim that this sort of thing happens every day on campus, but I did see it happen. I often think about that day, and doing so always makes me think that I am lucky to work at a place where, on occasion, it is possible to see true genius at work.