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Let the Future Begin!

USC Marshall and Leventhal celebrate Commencement 2019 in three satellite ceremonies

May 10, 2019
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At USC’s 136th Commencement on May 10, 2019, more than 2,300 USC Marshall and Leventhal graduates received their diplomas, turned their tassels and celebrated the milestone of becoming Trojan alumni.

Three business leaders spoke to the graduates during three satellite ceremonies at the University Park campus of the University of Southern California: DeVon Franklin, an award-winning film and TV producer, best-selling author, preacher and spiritual success coach; Michelle Witteman Taylor, president of M. Taylor Associates LLC; and Kelly Grier, EY’s U.S. chairman and managing partner and Americas managing partner.

Do the Right Things

USC Marshall Dean James G. Ellis introduced the undergraduate Class of 2019 at a Galen Center ceremony in the morning.

“They became adults while they were here, and now must shoulder the responsibility of leading a world that seems to be in turmoil all the time. They must make the right choices and do the right things. This is a world that needs ethics and morality. It needs values,” Ellis said to applause. “They have the skill sets and they have the values to make it happen—they have the spirit and the ability to truly make this a better world.”

“Your difference is your destiny. Do not exchange what makes you different for what makes you common.” -- DeVon Franklin '00, to undergraduates at the 2019 USC Marshall Commencement Ceremony

Franklin ’00 gave a rousing speech about making his dream a reality. After working as a creative executive at MGM and director of development at Columbia Pictures, he founded Franklin Entertainment, a dynamic multimedia entertainment company with a first-look deal at 20th Century Fox/Disney—a company for which he wrote a business plan in an entrepreneurship class at Marshall.

Franklin got a standing ovation after sharing his tips for success in business, among them: “First and foremost, you have to be crazy. I sat where you sat 19 years ago, and I had a crazy dream: to become a producer in Hollywood with my own deal. And people said, ‘DeVon, it’s not possible. You’re African American, you’re Christian, there’s no way you can find a place.’”

“Your difference is your destiny,” he said. “Do not exchange what makes you different for what makes you common.”

Accounting Matters

In an afternoon ceremony in Epstein Family Plaza, Leventhal Dean William W. Holder welcomed the accounting undergraduates and graduates.

Commencement speaker Grier was named one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in 2018 when she took on her current role leading EY in the U.S. and the EY Americas geographic area, which represent more than 72,000 people in 31 countries, with annual revenue of $15.6 billion.

Grier talked about the value of a Leventhal accounting degree in an ever-changing economy.

“You have everything you need to succeed no matter what comes your way,” Grier said, “because in addition to equipping you with the essential knowledge about how business works, your education has given you two other extremely important things:

“First, you’ve had the chance to explore your interests and you’ve learned the value of curiosity along the way. And second, you’ve had the chance to live the values that are essential to the accounting profession, those that have been cultivated here at USC Leventhal: a sense of respect and integrity that will serve you well throughout your careers.” 

Esprit de Corps

At an evening ceremony for graduate students at the Galen Center, the talk once again turned to the need for values and integrity.

“You’ve already demonstrated superior intellect by getting into USC graduate business school and the perseverance to graduate here today,” said graduate commencement speaker Taylor MBA ’79, a leader in the beauty industry who has held executive positions at Kiehl’s, Chanel Beauté and Lancôme. “But intellect and perseverance will only get you in the door. It is integrity, ethics and character that will really make the difference in how you ascend the management ladder and are ultimately remembered.”

“[Jim Ellis's] accomplishments for the Marshall school are numerous, but it’s his character that we all remember most.”--Michelle Witteman Taylor MBA '79

She cited Ellis as someone who epitomizes the values she espoused.

“His integrity, honesty, compassion and empathy—not to mention his selfless nature—are second to none, and are most evident in the respect and love that you, the students, the faculty and his peers have for him,” she said. “His accomplishments for the Marshall school are numerous, but it’s his character that we all remember most.”

Student speaker John Park MBV ’19 remarked that the Trojan family had the same “esprit de corps”—a close bond created by people in the same group—as he felt in the Marine Corp.

“Among the values of being a Trojan are honesty and integrity,” he said. “As we go into the next chapter of our lives, we need to always embrace these values.”

Dean Ellis fights on 2019

Fight On!

Dean James G. Ellis welcomes the undergraduate class of 2019 to its commencement ceremony, Friday, May 10 at the Galen Center.

DeVon Franklin

How to Succeed in Business

It helps to be crazy, according to inspirational speaker and Hollywood producer DeVon Franklin, who spoke to USC Marshall undergraduates at the 2019 Commencement ceremony.

young woman with mortar board

Thank You Mom!

USC Marshall students prepare to graduate in style.

Jake Olson and Dean Ellis

Graduating with Quebec

USC Marshall student and long snapper Jake Olson accepts his diploma from dean James G. Ellis. David Belasco, executive director of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies holds a mock diploma for Quebec, Olson's guide dog.

Marshall students mill about

The Calm before the Storm

USC Marshall undergraduates prepare to line up for the processional into the Galen Center...and their futures as Trojan alumni.

young woman graduates

Yet, She Persevered

A young woman graduates from USC Marshall to the cheers of her friends and family.

USC Leventhal Graduate Class of 2019

Be Audit you Can Be...

The USC Leventhal School of Accounting awarded more than 350 undergraduate and graduate degrees in a ceremony held at the Epstein Family Plaza.

USC Graduate Leventhal 2019 Audience

Friends and Family

It was standing room only for the USC Leventhal Commencement Ceremony.

Dean Ellis fights on 2019

Fight On!

Dean James G. Ellis welcomes the undergraduate class of 2019 to its commencement ceremony, Friday, May 10 at the Galen Center.

DeVon Franklin

How to Succeed in Business

It helps to be crazy, according to inspirational speaker and Hollywood producer DeVon Franklin, who spoke to USC Marshall undergraduates at the 2019 Commencement ceremony.

young woman with mortar board

Thank You Mom!

USC Marshall students prepare to graduate in style.

Jake Olson and Dean Ellis

Graduating with Quebec

USC Marshall student and long snapper Jake Olson accepts his diploma from dean James G. Ellis. David Belasco, executive director of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies holds a mock diploma for Quebec, Olson's guide dog.

Marshall students mill about

The Calm before the Storm

USC Marshall undergraduates prepare to line up for the processional into the Galen Center...and their futures as Trojan alumni.

young woman graduates

Yet, She Persevered

A young woman graduates from USC Marshall to the cheers of her friends and family.

USC Leventhal Graduate Class of 2019

Be Audit you Can Be...

The USC Leventhal School of Accounting awarded more than 350 undergraduate and graduate degrees in a ceremony held at the Epstein Family Plaza.

USC Graduate Leventhal 2019 Audience

Friends and Family

It was standing room only for the USC Leventhal Commencement Ceremony.