University of Southern California

How I Learned To Type
October 28, 2011 • by Retired Professor Roger Burton, PhD, BM '49

In the fall of 1944, I walked into Florence Watt's office at USC to register for work-study. She was in charge of scholarships at that time, and said to me, "You're late; the work-study jobs are all taken -- you're going to lose your scholarship." When I told her no one had told me when to register, she said, "Well, you'll just have to work for me. Do you know how to type?" I couldn't afford to lose my scholarship, so I replied, "Sure."

That's how I started in her office, putting out bulletins for the University. This was before copiers, and each bulletin I typed required making nine carbon copies. The trouble was, I didn't actually know how to type. I bought a cardboard Royal Typewriter card showing where my fingers were supposed to go and I spent most of my time erasing nine copies of the mistakes I made. Florence, I might point out, was the fastest typist in the world. As a teenager, she had won a typing contest. She let me learn, slowly, painfully, and in the meantime re-typed my pages.

Florence didn't just help students; she adopted them. She was an early version of a life coach. She would advise students on everything from career choices to personal grooming, sometimes going so far as taking them to a special salon in Beverly Hills to get their hair styled. She understood the importance of self-esteem in young students. After World War II, Florence started the USC Employment Bureau. She took it from nothing to a large enterprise, placing USC grads at high levels all around the world. She had connections to major companies and started an informal Committee of 1,000 that recruited CEOs around the globe to scout out jobs for USC graduates.

She married a brilliant young psychology professor, Rex Watt, who guided me into the field of psychology. Her brother Richard (Dick) Bertine operated a famous antique shop on Rodeo Drive. Dick is the godfather of my daughter, Maria, and when he died last year, he left in his estate a $1.6 million scholarship for USC Marshall in his sister Florence's name.

The Florence B. Watt Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund fulfills Florence's passion for helping USC students. She believed in the extraordinary young people who come through the Marshall School of Business, and so do I. I hope you'll consider following Richard's example by including USC Marshall in your estate plan. Bequests assure that the Marshall School will be able to provide exceptional educational support to our students-- now and in the future.

Fight On!
Retired Professor Roger Burton, PhD, BM '49