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Steven B. Sample, president of the University at Buffalo for nearly nine years, is expected to be confirmed today as the next president of the University of Southern California.

A private institution in Los Angeles with 27,750 students, USC has a national reputation for its film school and quality athletic teams, among other activities, and is highly selective. With an annual operating budget of $804 million, it is ranked as one of the top 10 private research universities in the United States.

Sample's appointment to USC's top job is expected to be announced late today at a news conference in Los Angeles by Forrest N. Shumway, president of USC's board of trustees. It will cap an eight-month search.

Sample was in Los Angeles today for the expected announcement and could not be reached to comment.

If Sample's predecessor as president of UB, the late Robert Ketter, is credited with building the mammoth Amherst campus, Sample is seen as having raised the visibility of the university and defining its mission as a public research university of national rank, colleagues say.

Currently there is a total of approximately $120 million in construction under way or soon to be under way on the UB campus. Sample is credited with providing the leadership that resulted in plans for a student activities center, student union, fine arts center and football stadium being completed despite state fiscal woes.

Sample, 50, was appointed president of the largest and most comprehensive campus of the State University of New York on March 1, 1982. He came to UB from the University of Nebraska, where his last post was executive vice president for academic affairs and dean of the graduate college.

During his tenure at UB, external support for research and sponsored programs nearly tripled to a level of more than $100 million annually and private gift support experienced a three-fold increase.

UB's current $52 million capital fund-raising campaign, launched in 1987, is the first such campaign conducted by a public university in New York State.

"He's actually left the university in much better shape financially that it was when he came here," said Ronald Stein, UB vice president for university relations.

Under Sample's leadership, UB was awarded $25 million from the National Science Foundation to establish the National center for Earthquake Engineering Research.

All the university's major research centers, in fact, have been established during his tenure.

To raise the visibility of the university, Sample has been an active member of numerous national, statewide and regional boards and organizations. He either is chairman or serves as a member of 15 boards and commissions in Western New York. Since 1985, he has been chairman on the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.

In 1989, Gov. Cuomo appointed him chairman of the Governor's Conference on Science and Engineering Education, Research and Development.

But Sample has not been without his critics.

The State University of New York trustees in June gave Sample a $7,000 pay raise to $133,775. The raise was criticized by the union representing SUNY professors. Only Sample and three other presidents in the SUNY system received salary increases.

Sample at the time responded through Stein, who noted Sample's salary increase mirrored the 5.5 percent increase received by union members this year. His salary at USC was not immediately available.

In October, a UB faculty survey concluded Sample does a poor job of encouraging research that doesn't bring the school money and his emphasis on good teaching is "only fair."

What the administration does best, according to the nearly 40 percent of UB's tenured faculty who responded to the poll, is pushing professors to do research that brings in outside money from business and other sponsoring organizations.

Sample dismissed the survey as inappropriate -- in part because it did not emanate from a recognized faculty body, such as the Faculty Senate, and in part because he said it was "not scientific."

"It's good to bring in dollars," said Murray Brown, an economics professor who headed the task force conducting the survey. "But to emphasize that, at the expense of something that could possibly be good work, does not represent what the faculty considers to be the basic mission of the university."

Sample received the Amherst Chamber of Commerce's 1990 VIP Award last summer.

The chamber credited Sample with promoting cooperation between the university, government, private industry and research agencies. Sample oversaw the creation of two successful business incubator projects in Western New York.

Sample is also credited with securing more than $15 million in grants and loans for local companies and agencies.

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