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USC Marshall Celebrates Commencement at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

USC Marshall Celebrates Commencement at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Marshall and Leventhal speakers commend the Class of 2024 for their resilience and offer an optimistic vision of the future.


On May 10, graduating students from the USC Marshall School of Business walked proudly down the tunnel of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum toward the commencement ceremony. The soon-to-be alumni snapped selfies and hugged friends as they passed a sign that read, “We Are SC” — the last stop before the next chapters in their lives begin.

One graduating student summed it all up to his friends: “We did it!”

As the students filed into their seats in the front rows, Pomp and Circumstance rose through the speakers, and a procession of deans, faculty, staff, and speakers made their way to the commencement stage.

Marshall Commencement

Beneath a beautiful blue sky and thousands of loved ones packed into the west-end of the historic venue, Dean Geoff Garrett reflected on what made the Class of 2024 unique. For many undergraduate students who graduated high school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this ceremony marked their first in-person commencement.

“To the Class of 2024, Garrett proclaimed. “Overcoming unimaginable and unprecedented obstacles has been your forte. Your determination, your grit, your unbreakable spirit are beyond inspiring.”

Jaime Lee ’06, JD ’09, served as Marshall’s commencement speaker. Lee is the chief executive officer of the Jamison Group, a $6 billion privately held commercial real estate enterprise, and an independent director for the James Campbell Company, a $5.3 billion Hawaii-based, nationally-diversified real estate group. Among her other accomplishments, she’s a board member for the LA 2028 Olympics games; a trustee at Harvard-Westlake School; the youngest ever USC Trustee, and a member of the Mayor’s International Advisory Council. In every year since 2018, the LA Business Journal has named Lee one of the 500 most influential people in Los Angeles.

Lee gave a message of hope and determination for the Class of 2024.

“None of us knows who we will be in a decade,” Lee said. “But if we dare to imagine the impossible, if we set audacious goals for ourselves, and if we have the courage to tackle them in innovative ways, we will discover that we aren’t even bound by our wildest dreams.”

Marshall’s undergraduate student speaker was Jamie Morgan, a business administration major who’s widely involved in the Marshall community. Morgan’s speech reflected on an age-old question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

“Maybe we shift our thinking to ‘who’ we want to be when we grow up, rather than ‘what.’ And I don’t think there’s any other school that could’ve better prepared us to answer this question than the USC Marshall School of Business,” Morgan exclaimed. She pointed out the high-character qualities Marshall instilled in its graduates: collaboration, curiosity, leadership, and community exhibited throughout the Trojan Network.

Full-time MBA student Shiressa Johnson was Marshall’s graduate student speaker. In her two years at Marshall, Johnson has been a member of the Marshall Leadership Fellows Program (MLFP), the Black Graduate Business Leaders, and Graduate Women in Business, as well as serving as a Marshall MBA ambassador. Johnson will also be co-authoring the book Against All Odds with author and motivational speaker Lisa Nichols. Johnson accomplished all of this with the support of a family at home and at school.

“Remember — you are a Trojan, and Trojans never have to ride alone,” Johnson said. “The bonds that we formed here are lifelong and worldwide as alumni.”

Before students received their degrees, Dean Garrett rose once more to announce a surprise. Garrett directed the crowd’s attention to the east-end of the stadium and The Torch, which has saluted two previous Olympic Games and will welcome another in 2028. An honor reserved for a special few, the flame ignited to recognize the newest Trojans and symbolize their bright future. An emphatic cheer rose from the audience.

Class of 2024, you are mission-driven, purpose-oriented and impact-obsessed. You are ready for all that is in front of you. You are all leaders, and the world has never needed your leadership more.

— Geoff Garrett


Leventhal Commencement

Earlier that day, graduated students gathered in front of the Leventhal School of Accounting for a procession across campus to its own ceremony at Brittingham Field. Once there, the tight-knit community gathered both to celebrate the 45th graduating class in Leventhal’s history and to hear Dean William Holder’s final commencement speech before he retires this summer and returns to the faculty.

“Anywhere resources are scarce, requiring choices to be made about their use (and resources are always scarce), there will be work for accountants,” Holder said. “I’m filled with optimism as I think about what each of you will now do with the education you’ve received from our faculty. Already, you have inspired me.”

Karen Schoenbaum MAcc ’85, executive vice president and chief financial officer of American Business Bank, which has grown to the top 10% of banks nationally in assets, served as Leventhal’s commencement speaker. Schoenbaum is a graduate of both Marshall and Leventhal, having earned her bachelor’s in business and her master’s in accounting.

Schoenbaum reflected on her tutelage under Dean Holder, whose passion and humanity has guided the Trojan alum throughout her career. To the graduating class, she provided them with essential building blocks for their careers and lives.

“May your foundation for all the chapters ahead in your life be: Enjoy your career, teach, learn from others, pursue accounting with integrity and civic humanity, be passionate and stay involved with Leventhal,” Schoenbaum said.

Nikki Tran, Leventhal’s undergraduate student speaker, delivered a speech filled with accounting puns, prompting chuckles from the crowd and Holder himself. Her speech took on a more serious tone as well, referencing the unconventional and often challenging path she and her classmates took to the stage.

“While there have been no cheat sheets to our success, our unwavering perseverance will be written into history because this class is not just an exception, it is exceptional,” Tran said.

Jeff Pai, Leventhal’s graduate student speaker, who received his master’s of accounting, reflected back on his journey to USC and urged his fellow graduates to take risks.

“My biggest takeaway this year is simply saying, ‘Why not?’” Pai said. “You’d be surprised at all the unique and amazing opportunities that come from saying, ‘Why not?’ Why not apply to my dream master’s program at USC? Why not be a little bit more extroverted and meet new people? Why not apply to be a commencement speaker?”

The ceremonies capped a week of celebration, reflection, and joy. And at the end of each speech, speakers offered two final words of wisdom for the Class of 2024: “Fight On.”

None of us knows who we will be in a decade. But if we dare to imagine the impossible, if we set audacious goals for ourselves, and if we have the courage to tackle them in innovative ways, we will discover that we aren’t even bound by our wildest dreams. 

— Jaime Lee

Marshall Commencement Speaker / CEO, Jamison Group