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USC Marshall Announces Five New Teaching Chairs and Inaugural Appointees

USC Marshall Announces Five New Teaching Chairs and Inaugural Appointees

Dean Garrett’s flagship teaching chair program ensures the school will attract and retain the most innovative, inspiring educators, and mentors for Marshall and Leventhal students.

Color photograph of professor Rebecca Heino on the USC campus.

PROFESSOR REBECCA HEINO is the first Cyrus Leadership Chair holder.

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As a USC Marshall sophomore, Mike Singer ‘85 cycled across campus before a football game to a lecture that would change his life. Inspired by Professor Warren Bennis’s words, Singer pursued opportunities to learn from the leadership expert.

During a one-on-one directed research program, the teacher and student met weekly for discussions of leadership issues. “This mentorship experience instilled in me a lifelong commitment to personal growth, continuous learning, and inspiring others to reach their full potential,” Singer said. Today, Singer is Managing Member Innocreative Capital. The LA-based investment firm has helped incubate and scale businesses in consumer/enterprise technology, health technology, renewable energy, apparel, consumer products and more.

The Warren Bennis Chair in Teaching Excellence, founded in the professor’s memory by a group of donors including Singer lays a foundation for generations of students to experience similarly transformative mentorship.

“By coming together as a community, we not only pay tribute to Professor Bennis’ extraordinary legacy but also continue his work of advancing leadership and education,” Singer said. “Ultimately, the impact of this investment will extend far beyond the classroom, as graduates go on to make meaningful contributions in their careers, drive innovation, and positively impact society as leaders.”

Recognizing the Impact of World-Class Teachers

Named chairs are among the highest honors bestowed by the university on the faculty. Because of this belief in the power of teaching, DEAN GEOFF GARRETT created the new Marshall Teaching Chair program—unique to the school—as a prestigious career track for non-tenure faculty.

Thanks to visionary donors, just a year after the program’s announcement, the initial goal to create FIVE NEW TEACHING CHAIRS has already been met.

“We believe that an excellent faculty can prepare the circumstances, context, and content for the students to learn and enhance the leadership qualities that will propel their drive toward a purpose-driven vision. For my co-founders and I, this is a meaningful legacy,” said Andrew Tavakoli MSBA ‘86, CEO and Principal at Tavaco Properties LLC, who envisioned and is the founder of the Cyrus the Great Chair in Timeless Leadership.

“By coming together as a community, we not only pay tribute to Professor Bennis’ extraordinary legacy but also continue his work of advancing leadership and education,”

— Mike Singer '85

Managing Member Innocreative Capital

Named for the historical emperor renowned for humanitarian leadership, the chair will elevate leading teachers and help foster tomorrow's responsible business leaders. "As I was doing research on Cyrus the Great for a film project that I have been working on, I came to the realization how rare Cyrus was among major historical figures, especially among Empire builders," said Mark Amin, CEO at Sobini Films and a co-founder of the Cyrus Leadership Chair.

“An endowed chair signals a commitment from the university to the program and will create the opportunity for the program to attract top talent,” said Haleh Emrani, Founder and CEO at SageDom and a co-founder of the Cyrus Leadership Chair.

Professor of Clinical Management and Organization, REBECCA HEINO, the first Cyrus Leadership Chair holder, said: “I’m honored to receive this inaugural teaching chair at a school that genuinely values and recognizes excellent teaching. Marshall is a place that encourages me to foster and develop leaders for our current world—one in which they are expected not only to understand the business but also to have self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and cultural competence.”

Empowering Generations of Marshall Graduates to Thrive

Marshall faculty constantly innovate to build curricula that prepare students to adapt, succeed, and lead in a rapidly changing world. “The strength of the finance professors helped me forge my own path in corporate finance,” recalls Sharon Maffei ‘82, MARSHALL BOARD OF COUNCILORS member and founder of the Sharon and Greg Maffei Chair in Teaching Excellence with her husband.

Now that her son is at Marshall, Maffei reflects on the value of professors integrating academic knowledge with real-world applications: “His experience is influenced by the uniqueness of each course—how it is taught, the tools the teacher uses to engage the class, and the experiential component of the curriculum. These factors are heavily influenced by the quality of the teacher. The opportunity for students to access the best teachers will no doubt influence their career paths and their overall experience at USC.”

“Great teachers are important to students of all ages, but college professors have an immediate impact on cultivating talents that will shape careers,” said Jill Brooks-Garnett ‘00, President of Redstone Creek Management and founder of the Jill Brooks-Garnett Teaching Chair in Entrepreneurship.

With students’ academic and professional growth as a top priority DAN WADHWANI, professor of clinical entrepreneurship, expresses gratitude for the teaching chair program: “I was truly delighted to be appointed the inaugural holder of the Brooks-Garnett Chair. My colleagues and I in the Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies are really dedicated to the development and success of our students, so this newly established chair means a lot in recognizing the work we do.”

Many Trojans and friends share this conviction that great teachers create exceptional outcomes for students, business, and the world.