The Watts Riot of August 11-17, 1965 resulted from the deep-seated resentment in the African-American community for what was perceived as longstanding brutality by law enforcement agencies in South Central Los Angeles, south of the USC University Park Campus. Professor Russell Caldwell, a resident of South Central Los Angeles, and three of his colleagues launched what he called the USC Neighborhood Scholarship in December 1965, four months after the rioting. In a letter to USC faculty and staff, Dr. Caldwell invited his colleagues “…to join in this positive kind of demonstration” by authorizing a $5.00 per month tax-deductible contribution to what he termed the “Faculty-Staff Scholarship for worthy students in the University’s neighborhood who would not otherwise hope to attend USC.”
The first USC Neighborhood Scholarship was awarded to a graduate of Manual Arts High School in Spring 1968. More than 400 USC undergraduates from 10 designated high schools adjacent to USC’s campuses have received Caldwell Scholarships totaling more than $1 million. Like Professor Caldwell himself, the vast majority have been the first in their families to receive a college degree.
After Professor Caldwell’s death, and at his request, the USC Retired Faculty Association (RFA) became the sponsor of the scholarship and changed its name to the Russell L. Caldwell Neighborhood Scholarship Program in his honor. The program continues to provide support to eight undergraduates each year. To learn more about this year’s scholars, please click here.
Many of us have been concerned in recent times by news that only children of the wealthy can get into research universities and that public school students from lower income households do not have a chance to qualify or if they do, lack the funds to take full advantage of all the special programs available. Retired faculty at USC have an opportunity to help, however modestly, level the playing field by contributing to the Caldwell Neighborhood Scholarship Fund. If we were able to add an extra $20,000 from faculty this coming year, we could raise our per student stipend of $3000 a year to $5000 and increase the number of neighborhood students we support to 10.
A retired USC professor, wishing to support further Russell Caldwell’s admirable objective of increasing area high school students’ access to USC, has made a gift of $100,000 to establish an endowment for the Caldwell Neighborhood Scholarship Program. The RFA is thrilled announce this gift, and we hope that future donations by retired and active faculty and staff will continue to build the endowment and assure the permanence of the Russell L. Caldwell Neighborhood Scholarship Program.