USC Leonard Davis School celebrates its students and supporters

The Scholars and Benefactors Luncheon is an annual event recognizing the donor support that makes scholarships and other important school initiatives possible.

Rick Matros MSG ’77 received the Dean’s Medallion from Dean Pinchas Cohen.

USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology supporters, faculty members and students gathered at USC’s Town and Gown on October 17th for the Scholars and Benefactors Luncheon, an annual event recognizing the donor support that makes endowed scholarships, professorships and other important school initiatives possible.

Pinchas Cohen, dean of the USC Leonard Davis School, mentioned that the last several years have seen tremendous growth for the school.

“We’ve grown our student body more than threefold to over 600 students in the last 7 years. Many of these students have benefitted from the wonderful scholarships that have been made possible by our supporters,” Cohen said. “We’ve also expanded our faculty, and this growth has been mainly in young brilliant assistant professors who are the future of the field of gerontology. We’ve also expanded our research programs dramatically, increasing our grant portfolio from the National Institutes of Health from $6 million [annually] to over $20 million in 2020.”

Shari Thorell, chair of the USC Leonard Davis School Board of Councilors, said the annual celebration was a wonderful opportunity to appreciate all that the school’s students, alumni, faculty and supporters make possible.

“I love this day because it gives us a chance to honor both our benefactors and our scholars,” Thorell said. “For you benefactors, today you get to see the tangible expression of your investment. I have a feeling you’ll agree with me that you have a very high rate of return on your investment in the Davis School, so thank you for that commitment.”

She also thanked USC Leonard Davis students for pursuing the study of human development and aging: “I know what you are doing now is going to make a big positive difference in my life, so thank you for that!”

Brendan Miller, PhD in Neuroscience candidate and a member of Dean Cohen’s laboratory, spoke about his work studying human genetics and Alzheimer’s disease. He cited the highly collaborative and interdisciplinary environment of the school as one of the reasons why he was able to identify a potential new genetic target for Alzheimer’s, a mitochondrial mutation associated with a doubling of one’s risk for the disease.

“The investment in fostering collaborations is the main reason I came to the USC Leonard Davis School,” he said. “In addition to [Dean Cohen], I have mentors across so many different disciplines, which I don’t think would have happened if I had gone to a different program.”

Assistant Professor Reginald Tucker-Seeley, holder of the Edward L. Schneider Chair in Gerontology, described his research on how financial hardship and other social factors influence health and health care, especially in older adults. He described how benefactor support, including his 2019 Hanson-Thorell Family Award, has enabled him to further his work in understanding how financial hardship “gets under the skin” and influences health.

During the program, Dean Cohen presented the Dean’s Medallion to Rick Matros MSG ’77, chairman, president and CEO of Sabra Health Care REIT and member of the USC Leonard Davis School Board of Councilors. The Dean’s Medallion is the highest honor that can be bestowed by the dean of the USC Leonard Davis School.

In his remarks, Matros described how the school prepared him and his fellow alumni for making a difference in the aging field.

“One of the things that excites me about how this school has developed over the last 45 years is the quality of student leadership that has come out of this school and the impact the school could have on policy,” he said. “Those are game-changers and will really impact the industry and the people we serve.”

Top: USC Leonard Davis School Dean Pinchas Cohen, Rick Matros MSG ’77, Board of Councilors Chair Shari Thorell, PhD in Neuroscience candidate Brendan Miller, Edward L. Schneider Chair in Gerontology Reginald Tucker-Seeley, and Dean Emeritus and Professor Edward Schneider. Photo by Steve Cohn.