School day

USC is tops in football ― and it has great art and architecture too
Wendy O'Dea

There's nothing like visiting the University of Southern California on Game Day. But after the football team's recent national championship, now's a great time to see what else USC has to offer.

As a postgraduate student who pulled her nose out of her books on occasion, I gained a real appreciation for the wealth of history ― artistic, literary, and athletic ― contained on the main campus, just south of downtown Los Angeles.

Celebrating its 125th anniversary, USC has come a long way since its founding in what was then a rough-and-tumble frontier town. Today visitors and students stroll through courtyards teeming with activity. Among the sights is the Fisher Gallery (noon-5 Tue-Sat; free; 213/740-4561), the first museum in Los Angeles devoted exclusively to fine art. Performance venues such as Bing Theatre (213/740-4672) and Alfred Newman Recital Hall (213/740-2584) allow music and theater majors to perfect their craft and offer a window into the performing arts for the surrounding community.

Given the university's well-regarded sports programs, one of the most visited buildings on campus is Heritage Hall (213/740-8480), the sports information building housing retired jerseys, Rose Bowl trophies, and Heisman Trophies from alumni Carson Palmer and Marcus Allen. Toward the center of campus, a youthful-looking Tommy Trojan ― who turns 75 this year ― keeps watch over the main pedestrian thoroughfare that winds past the Pertusati University Bookstore (213/740-0066), a four-story behemoth selling textbooks, popular books, and a phalanx of Trojan memorabilia.

A prime example of stately academic design can be found at historic Doheny Memorial Library (closed Mar 12-13; 213/740-2924) ― a feast for the eyes. The lobby features six brilliant stained-glass windows, beamed ceilings decorated with gold leaf, and an inlaid Roman travertine marble floor.

Across from the library, you'll see the distinguished Bovard Auditorium ( www.usc.edu/bovard), a 1,271-seat performance hall built in 1922 and brilliantly restored in recent years. It's home to the USC Thornton Symphony, the President's Distinguished Artist Series, and USC Spectrum presentations (of music, speakers, art, theater, and dance), all open to the public.