The gift from downtown developer Sonny
Astani will nurture a vision of sustainable ‘megacities.’
Source :: USC News
Date :: 11.29.2007
By :: By Eric Mankin
“This is a gift to both USC and
Los Angeles," said Astani, who earned his master's
at the university in 1978.
Sonny Astani, whose soaring high-rises and philanthropy are
remaking downtown Los Angeles, has given $17 million to name
the USC department of civil and environmental engineering.
This is the fourth department naming gift for the school since
it began its $300-million fund-raising initiative in 2001.
USC President Steven B. Sample hailed
the gift by Astani, who earned a master’s degree in industrial
and systems engineering from USC in 1978, two years after arriving
in the United States from his native Iran.
“Sonny Astani is a remarkable Trojan who is transforming
Los Angeles,” Sample said. “He understands the crucial
role civil and environmental engineers must play as more and
more people live in cities. We are deeply grateful at USC not
only for his exceptional gift but for his majestic vision of
Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School, expressed
his gratitude for the gift and said the department would be known
as the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
“Thirty years ago, by mere good fortune, I ended up in
the best university, in the best city, in the best country in
the world,” Astani said. “This is a gift to both
USC and Los Angeles. It is my hope that it will allow a new generation
of civil and environmental engineers to rise to the increasingly
complex challenges created by the urbanization of Los Angeles
and the changes to the global environment we are now facing.”
Yortsos noted that civil engineering, the oldest engineering
discipline, remains the branch of engineering that is closest
to the lives of people, particularly in cities.
“Civil engineers provide homes, water, sanitation, bridges,
tunnels, roads and civil infrastructure and environmental engineering
expertise is critical to solving problems of pollution and micro-climate,” he
“By 2030 almost five billion people, or 60 percent of
the entire world, will live in cities. This raises huge challenges
for civil and environmental engineers, challenges now known in
the profession as those of ‘megacities,’ he explained. “Internationally
we see an emerging vision for civil and environmental engineering
as a major force for improvement and enhancement of cities, not
only for Los Angeles, but for major urban centers around the
And, Yortsos continued, “Astani
shares our belief that civil engineering is vital to achieve
a critical need for the 21st century: cities designed to be
highly functional, healthful and inspiring; environments that
Astani is the chairman of Astani Enterprises, a Beverly Hills-based
development concern. His firm owns or operates approximately
4,000 apartment units throughout Southern California and is currently
developing approximately 2,000 units of condominiums and lofts
in downtown Los Angeles with a total value in excess of $1 billion.
Among the developments are five iconic residential towers and
two loft buildings.
Last year, Astani Enterprises made a
$1.5 million donation to the Skid Row Housing Trust, completing
funding for the Abbey Apartments, a downtown complex that will
house 115 of Los Angeles’ mentally
ill homeless when it opens next year.
Astani, an Iranian immigrant who received
a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the USC Viterbi School,
serves on the executive committee of the Central City Association,
the board of councilors of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering
and on the Leadership Council for USC’s Lusk Center for
Real Estate Development. He is also a board member of the Pacific
Council for International Affairs.
The Astani donation is the seventh multimillion-dollar donation
from a USC engineering alumnus in the last six years, following
earlier gifts by Andrew J. Viterbi (naming the school); Daniel
J. Epstein, Ming Hsieh and John Mork (naming the departments
of industrial and systems engineering, electrical engineering,
and chemical engineering and materials science); Mark Stevens
(creating the USC Stevens Institute) and Kenneth Klein (creating
the USC Viterbi Center for Undergraduate Engineering Life).