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Rufus Bernhard von KleinSmid (1875-1964) was the Fifth President of the University of Southern California (1921–1947).[1]

Rufus Bernhard von KleinSmid became USC's fifth president in 1921. A high priority of his administration was to expand professional training programs, and President von KleinSmid also presided over a building program that added nine major structures to the university campus. By the end of his first decade in office, USC had attained full national accreditation, established a graduate school to unify graduate work across the university, and had become a large non-denominational institution.

With the onset of the Great Depression at decade’s end, USC was forced to retrench in the 1930s. During World War II (1939–1945), army barracks were constructed on campus, and the curriculum reflected a wartime emphasis on international relations, history, geography, languages, aerospace science and the like. Some 2,000 military trainees added to crowded conditions on campus. After the war, the lack of space at USC grew even worse, as the G.I. Bill brought former servicemen to the university for study. Enrollment soared from 8,500 in 1945 to more than 24,000 in 1947. In 1946 von KleinSmid, then 70 years old, elected to step down and became USC's chancellor for life.[1]

Von KleinSmid was also the seventh president of the University of Arizona (1914-1921).[2]

He was recognized as "one of three of the nation's most distinguished citizens" through the National Institute of Social Sciences Gold Medal Award. On an international level, von KleinSmid received awards from 20 national governments for his achievements.[3] However, it has been widely speculated that von KleinSmid was a Nazi sympathizer; according to USC's Dean of Religious Life, Rabbi Susan Laemmle, "Depending on who you believe, [von KleinSmid] was somewhere between liking Germans and being a Nazi."[4]

The Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862-1947) painted his three-quarter length portrait in 1931; it was the gift of the Doheny family to the University of Southern California, who de-accessioned it in the 1980s.

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Preceded by
George F. Bovard
President of the University of Southern California
Succeeded by
Fred D. Fagg, Jr.


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