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May 12, 2006

Agent Extraordinaire

Marking The Installation Of The School's 13th Endowed Chair

By James Tella

The USC Marching Band heralded the evening's festivities.
At a star-studded gala that began with the fanfare of the Trojan Marching Band, friends, family, scholars, students, and supporters of Associate Dean Larry Auerbach marked his installation as the school’s record-breaking 13th endowed chair on May 10.

“Tonight we celebrate one of the most prestigious traditions in higher education and the great achievements of Larry Auerbach,” Dean Elizabeth M. Daley told the audience who packed into the Le Petit Trianon Room at the Regent Beverly Wilshire for the event.

Formally known as the Larry Auerbach Endowed Chair, the seat was funded by Oscar-winning editor Marcia Lucas (Star Wars, American Graffiti, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore), who has long supported efforts to assist students to make the transition from their academic to professional pursuits.

Having worked some 47 years at the William Morris Agency, where he was the executive vice president and a member of the board, Auerbach undertook his second career as head of the Office of Student-Industry Relations, which Lucas created, in 1992.

Upon his arrival, he immediately used his network to the school’s benefit, drawing entertainment leaders to serve as instructors of the undergraduate and graduate business courses he established. In addition to assisting students with access to film festivals from Cannes to Sundance to USC’s own First Look Festival, Auerbach’s office also provides personal career counseling, industry internships, and recently introduced the Got Career? job seminar series for students and recent alumni.

Eva Marie Saint and Bill Cosby were just two of several of Auerbach’s friends and colleagues to pay tribute to him during the course of the night.
“This is a funny town where people take, take and take,” said Eva Marie Saint, one of several of Auerbach’s friends and colleagues to pay tribute to him during the course of the night. “And Larry has given back.”

Following moving and jovial stories about the guest of honor made by his sons, guests enjoyed a video message from several of Auerbach’s friends including industry professionals Robert Wagner, Henry Winkler, Michael Eisner. Norman Jewison, who Auerbach represented for decades, had the crowd laughing with his tale of the veteran agent smuggling Kosher hotdogs into Yugoslavia during the filming of Fiddler on the Roof (1971).

“This chair is symbolic of what can happen when you do an honest day’s work,” said Master of Ceremonies Bill Cosby. “It means a lot to me because Larry has never backed off. He has never faulted, he speaks his mind and for this, this chair will always have light on it. Let many more come that have the integrity of a Larry Auerbach.”

“Tonight, it’s a great pleasure to say thank you,” Daley said as she followed other tributes to Auerbach from industry agents Jack Wohl, Bernie Brillstein and Bryan Lourd, along with lawyer David Braun, producer Phil D’Antoni and actor Elliott Gould.

Daley also told the audience about the first time she met Lucas and how the editor had a very bold plan to create an office that would assist students. Lucas’ only question was who could lead it?

Daley knew immediately: Larry Auerbach.
Creative Artist Agency Managing Director Bryan Lourd, Auerbach, and Dean Elizabeth M. Daley.

“Your name is going to be perpetually at the school for generations that will come,” Daley added before introducing the man of the evening. “I hope this is not the last chair that will be endowed for the agents and reps who are seldom seen, but who make our business what it is.”

“One of the greatest rewards of being at the school is I have a great opportunity to give back,” Auerbach said.

And in an evening of great stories, Auerbach’s own reminiscence about how he first got hooked on the business proved a gem. Recalling that he started out in Hollywood by delivering packages to the likes of Marilyn Monroe and an anonymous actress who answered the door in her lingerie, Auerbach said he pretty quickly discarded his mother’s advice to become an accountant. “I love working with talent and helping them reach their dreams.”

And with a martini delivered to him right on cue, Auerbach acknowledged his wife and thanked the crowd.

“Now, I’m going to sit in my rocking chair,” he said, gesturing to the named chair on stage beside him.