Andrew Viterbi and Erna Finci-Viterbi

Endowing Leadership

Andrew and Erna Viterbi need no reminders of the Holocaust’s horrors to realize the value of USC Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education. “It’s our life history, our life story,” he says.

His family fled persecution in northern Italy and, through a complex and difficult process, obtained visas to the U.S. Her experience was even more harrowing: She and her immediate family left their home in Sarajevo for the coastal area of Yugoslavia where they were taken prisoner and deported to Italy. After the Armistice, as the German occupation of Northern Italy again placed their lives in mortal danger, they escaped over the mountains to Switzerland. Tragically, the majority of her relatives perished in concentration camps.

Because the Viterbis understand the importance of preserving testimonies for later generations, they have long supported the Institute and its educational mission. Recently, they endowed the Andrew J. and Erna Finci Viterbi Executive Director Chair. Endowed funds are vital to ensuring the Institute’s programs and long-term sustainability as they provide permanent sources of financial support.

This is crucial, notes Erna Viterbi — who serves on the Board of Councilors — because the Institute’s work extends beyond the Holocaust. “They’re forging ahead, including other genocides and other people who have suffered, and helping document their stories,” she says.

The couple, whose name also graces the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, is especially impressed with the Institute’s use of technology to extract both subtleties and general trends from survivor stories. The Viterbis also appreciate how effectively the Institute’s collection engages students.

“Exposing young people to this horrific period in history through these impactful first-hand reports is very important,” he says.

“It really gives them a chance to learn and hopefully helps them be better people and make a better world for the future,” she adds. “This will have a big influence, I believe, on this generation and future generations.”