The USC Man

Leading Voices in Business Series launches with USC Trustee Kris Popovich ’65 ’70

September 25, 2017

USC Marshall School of Business MBA candidates spend countless hours in Popovich Hall; on Thursday evening, they got a front-row seat to get to know the man whose name is on the building.

In a wide-ranging conversation from high school days to thoughts on a happy marriage and family, USC trustee J. Kristoffer “Kris” Popovich ’65, MBA ’70 spoke to an overflow crowd of students September 21st in Jane Hoffman Popovich & J. Kristoffer Popovich Hall or “JKP.”

Longtime Benefactor

In addition to Popovich Hall, longtime USC benefactors, Kris Popovich and his late wife, USC Trustee Jane Hoffman Popovich ’65, provided gifts establishing student scholarships and funded faculty and cancer research. Jane Popovich’s parents, H. Leslie and Elaine Stevely Hoffman, created the Hoffman Foundation in the 1950s, contributing millions of dollars to the campaign supporting USC’s Master Plan, and more toward construction of the Elaine Stevely Hoffman Medical Research Center and the H. Leslie Hoffman Hall of Business Administration.

Popovich operated Hoffman Associates, a successor of Western Mortgage, which developed and managed real estate. He was also President and CEO of Hoffman Video Systems, a Los Angeles-based distributor of industrial and broadcast equipment.

A resident of San Marino, Popovich serves with his three daughters as Trustee of the H. Leslie and Elaine S. Hoffman Family Foundation. He was instrumental in the formation of a board of directors for the USC Associates and later served as the group’s President.  He is a member of the USC Marshall Board of Leaders and also a past board member of the Keck School of Medicine of USC. An engaged community leader, Popovich is Chair of Kidspace Children’s Museum and served on the boards of the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles and the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Here are some of his thoughts on topics covered in the interview:

Define your leadership style:

“I am a team-builder.  I am honest, I don’t pull punches, I say what I think, and I try to make sure I don’t step on anybody’s toes as I go.”

Advice to future CEOs:

“Make sure you have a good team to help you – you cannot be an expert in everything.”

What advice would you give your younger self?

“When I was in high school, I should have studied harder,” he said, recalling how he later improved his academic achievements in college by following the study habits of his roommate, now a professor at UC Berkeley: “Every time he would study, I would study – Friday nights, Saturday nights too!”

Qualities you looked for in employees:

“Honesty, integrity, fair play….People who bring excitement to their job, bring fun to the team.”

When you look at business today, what areas excite you?

“Everyone wants to work for the big companies – Google, IBM and so on… I think I would pick a small company, somewhere I could have some influence and impact.”

Should students focus on their strengths or on improving their weaknesses?

“Work on your strengths….that is the number one attribute you will show to your employer.”

Looking back on your personal, professional and philanthropic experience, of what are you most proud?

“Kidspace, this building, and my grandchildren….. and not in that order.”

How does one select a philanthropic activity?

“Pick an area where you want to give back. You just have to pick something that really turns your wheels… giving person-to-person interplay is where people get the most benefit from their gift versus just writing a check ….. Give back to others if you have been blessed by an economy that’s taken care of you.”

Why do you choose to support USC?

“They do a darned good job. It is a great school.  There is something here that just makes things ‘cook’!”                          

What does ‘Fight On!’ mean to you?

“Never give up.  Do your best. Make sure whatever you do, you do the best you can.”

What advice can you share for a happy marriage?

“Jane and I married at 22 and it was great growing up together… Make sure you are always going in the same direction and communicate all the time, as much as you can.  It goes by quickly, take advantage of the time.  It is beautiful.”

Leading Voices

The evening was the first event of the Leading Voices in Business series bringing visionaries and leaders to campus in a fireside chat-style discussion for Marshall graduate students.  The series is hosted by the Marshall Graduate Student Association (MGSA) and is supported by Suh-Pyng Ku, Vice Dean for Graduate Programs and Professor of Clinical Finance and Business Economics, and James Ellis, Dean of the Marshall School of Business, Robert R. Dockson Dean’s Chair in Business Administration, and Professor of Clinical Marketing.

Kris Popovich was introduced by Vice Dean Ku and interviewed by Marshall Graduate Student Association (MGSA) President Richard Baynes MBA ’18.