Million-Dollar Gift for Veterans

Andrew Tavakoli MSBA ’86 donates $1 million in support of veterans earning a Master of Business at the USC Marshall School of Business


July 23, 2019

The USC Marshall School of Business has announced a $1 million gift from Andrew Tavakoli MSBA ’86 to support the Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) program.

The gift will establish and support the Andrew Tavakoli Family Endowment for MBV Students, an endowment fund that will provide tuition assistance to military veterans enrolled in the MBV program who demonstrate exceptional potential for leadership and impact in the business community. The fund will supplement the GI bill to cover 100 percent of costs for as many students as possible.

“My hope is that no qualified veteran or active duty personnel would ever be prevented from joining the USC MBV program for lack of financial resources."—Andrew Tavakoli MSBA ’86, founder and CEO of Tavaco Properties and member of USC Marshall's Board of Leaders

“I truly appreciate Mr. Tavakoli’s support for our veteran students in the MBV program,” said MBV Program Director James Bogle. “In our conversations, it quickly became clear that Andrew recognizes the unique potential that former military leaders bring to the business community. He views this gift as a way to create a positive impact, not only in the lives of the individual students who will benefit from his generosity, but also in the way veterans apply themselves in business to do well for our country and our society.”

The MBV is a fully accredited, one-year graduate degree that was created specifically for military veterans, active duty and reserve personnel. It is designed to leverage the management and leadership experience gained during military service, while equipping participants with formal business knowledge and critical thinking skills to help them transfer their skill sets to the business environment. Graduates leave with the ability to launch, manage and grow a new business.

“My hope is that no qualified veteran or active duty personnel would ever be prevented from joining the USC MBV program for lack of financial resources,” said Tavakoli, who is founder and CEO of Tavaco Properties, a commercial property investment firm. “Dedicated leaders with character strength and management abilities of veterans can significantly impact the betterment of the world, and the MBV provides the relevant skills—that business know-how—to empower them to launch new startups and lead large businesses while creating jobs in our country.”

Giving Back

Tavakoli is a member of Marshall’s Board of Leaders. In addition to his MSBA from Marshall, Tavakoli holds an MBA from California State University Long Beach and a BSEE degree in computer science from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a board member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

According to Bogle, many MBV graduates take an entrepreneurial path and start businesses that provide a tangible benefit to society. Ty Smith MBV ’16 is a perfect example of the kind of student the Tavakoli Scholarship will enable Marshall to support.

Smith was on active duty as a Navy SEAL when he went through the MBV program, so he didn’t qualify for any of the educational benefits that supplement the GI Bill and make private schools like USC accessible to vets. Funds from USC donors helped close the $12,000 gap.

While taking classes in the MBV program, Smith launched his own consulting and training business in the security industry, Vigilance Risk Solutions.

“I chose the MBV because it’s very entrepreneurship-centric,” Smith said. “The advanced business education opened up my mind a lot. Coursework in communications, statistics and analytics, entrepreneurship studies, business strategy, accounting and finance gave me a much more diverse and critical way of thinking in terms of entrepreneurship. The MBV gave me strategies that are tremendously helpful on a daily basis with what I’m doing right now.”

More importantly, said Smith, was how the program helped him transition after 20 years of military service. “The MBV program helped me transition my skill set from the military into something that the private sector would find valuable. That’s huge,” he said, “but the MBV also helped me handle the transition mentally. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had the mentorship and guidance of faculty like Professor [Emeritus of Clinical Management and Organization Robert] Turrill.”