The USC Ross Program was founded by USC and the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA) as a response to the 1992 civil unrest. Los Angeles was faced with an unprecedented and immediate need for experienced real estate professionals to aid in the rebuilding of the inner city. In seeking an inclusive process, the CRA found a lack of minority developers with specific knowledge and skill sets in real estate development and finance. In response, Richard Benbow, then CRA deputy administrator, and Roy Willis, then CRA administrator, organized community leaders, including Linda King-Wright, Barbara Harris, and Michael Banner, along with USC faculty members Stuart Gabriel and David Dale-Johnson, to advocate for a specialized program to help local residents participate in redevelopment. These leaders recognized that real estate was a key component to economic development and self-determination for underserved communities.
In 2003, Stan Ross and his wife, Marilyn, bestowed a generous endowment gift to ensure the program’s permanent viability. Since its founding, The USC Ross Program has graduated more than 900 participants, including developers, private investors, bankers, architects, attorneys, urban planners, and entrepreneurs who work for private, public, and non-profit entities.