John and Alaine Weiss Support USC’s Future

USC Gould School of Law • December 29, 2019
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Reflecting on their lives, John and Alaine Weiss find more clarity now than they ever had during the journey. Retirement and estate planning tend to give you a different perspective. And when it comes to what made them who they are, they both agree it was their education.

“Each of us looks at our undergraduate and graduate school backgrounds, and they played such an important part in terms of who we are, how we view the world, our career success, and our personal success,” says John, who earned his undergraduate and law degrees at USC in 1975 and 1979, respectively.

Alaine, who received her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University, an MBA from Indiana University, and an MS in counseling from California State University, adds, “Looking back, you realize that, but for that education and the factors that made it possible for you to have that education, you probably wouldn’t have had the career success, life satisfaction, and wherewithal to help others.”

“We want to make that possible for others,” John says.

John spent 35 years as in-house counsel for Beckman Coulter, a Brea-based corporation that develops and manufactures biomedical testing products. He met Alaine in 1989 when she was recruited by Beckman Coulter to head international human resources. Already annual donors to their schools, the couple wanted to include USC Gould and Alaine’s undergraduate institution, Michigan State, in their estate plan.

“We asked ourselves: Who will benefit the most from having that additional help? That was a big driver for us,” Alaine says.

First and foremost, they want their gift to help students afford tuition at their alma maters.

“One of the things that made it possible for me to stay at USC as an undergrad was that I had a scholarship,” John says. “And that set the foundation for me to be able to go on to law school because I wasn’t already debt overburdened by the time I got through school.”

They also want to focus on students with special circumstances, those coming out of foster care or first-generation students, for example—students for whom it’s not a given that they can attend an elite school and earn a degree.

“Some young people come from backgrounds where they don’t have a family support structure in place, they don’t have a lot of money behind them, and their friends and social group don’t understand why anybody would want to go to all that work and trouble,” John says. “Their margin for error is zero. Those are the individuals for whom those degrees may make the most difference in their lives, helping to elevate their opportunities and giving them choices they might not have had.”

Avid world travelers who have always appreciated different cultures and perspectives, the couple also believes that such students, “young people from all socio-economic strata and from all kinds of life experiences, who truly represent our society,” have much to contribute.

“We think it’s important for law firms, government, the corporate world, and charitable organizations to have people who come from very different places,” John says. “And I feel like a USC Gould law degree or a USC or MSU undergraduate degree can really take these people places where their contribution is going to be unique, and those organizations will engage in different activities than they might have, and that will be for everybody’s benefit.”

Not long after graduation, John says, he was fortunate to find the job at Beckman Coulter. When companies were acquired or operations were established overseas in places such as France, India, and the Middle East, John was tasked with setting up the business and legal frameworks.

“I was really in a place where I could make a difference,” he says. “There was a good opportunity to stretch. You help solve one problem, and then a couple of years later you’re doing something entirely different with different people. That was the kind of environment it was: you had to keep moving and flexing and learning.”

Being open to new experiences and opportunities has served him well. John hopes that future generations of students at USC Gould will take a lesson from his own journey.

“You can try to plan your life, and you may think you know what your career is going to be, but it’s actually all the unplanned stuff that happens along the way that makes it so interesting.”


Learn more about USC Gould gift planning »

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