Greif Gift Puts Marshall School Campaign Over the Top
When it comes to life, Lloyd Greif doesn’t believe in taking “no” for an answer. A graduate of USC’s Entrepreneur Program (M.B.A. ‘79), he achieved rapid success in the world of investment banking, becoming the youngest vice chairman in the history of Sutro & Co. Incorporated before launching Greif & Co.—today a leading California investment banking firm—in 1992.
Now, at the age of 42, his gift of $5 million to create the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC’s Marshall School of Business makes him the first entrepreneur graduate in the country to endow an entrepreneur program. This landmark contribution enabled the Marshall School to surpass its $100 million campaign goal and is the largest gift to USC by an individual in his 40s.
The son of immigrant parents, with a father who survived both the Auschwitz and Dora-Nordhausen concentration camps, Mr. Greif is passionate in his conviction that an entrepreneurial spirit can transform life. “Entrepreneurs are alchemists. They add value to existence— turning iron into gold—through strength of will, intelligence and a determination to succeed,” he says.
His decision to create Greif & Co. during the depths of the 1990s recession was a major vote of confidence in the California economy.
“I’ve always believed in the resilience of this state. Most of the businesses here are owner-operated, so we found our niche when we focused on middle-market entrepreneurs,” says Mr. Greif. “We consistently set a higher target than our clients in what we do for them. And as risk-takers themselves, they appreciate the fact it’s my name on the door.”
Mr. Greif, who also holds a B.A. in economics from UCLA and a juris doctorate from Loyola Law School, credits USC’s Entrepreneur Program as a primary factor in his early success.
“I wrote a personal letter to every alumnus of the program in 1983. When one of them called me to sell his business, it launched my career as an investment banker and earned me a substantial fee. Now I feel like I’m paying USC back, with interest.”
That same year, Mr. Greif was invited to join the Entrepreneur Program’s advisory council. “I was only an assistant vice president at the time, just a few years out of school,” says Mr. Greif. “It helped me forge some valuable connections within the Trojan community. A break like that really makes a difference.”
He has served on the advisory council for the past 15 years and, in 1995, became its chairman. Mr. Greif received USC’s Outstanding Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 1987. He has taught graduate and undergraduate students in the Marshall School for many years.
With his gift to endow the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies—the successor to the Entrepreneur Program—Mr. Greif hopes to create a whole new generation of successful entrepreneurs.
“When I talk to students coming through the program, I recognize that sparkle in their eyes,” says Mr. Greif. “They’re all vying to come up with the next great idea or successful product. If we help them make those dreams come true, it’ll put more people to work and feed a lot of families.”
Lloyd Greif is particularly proud of the accomplishments of his alma mater. “When people think of entrepreneurship, they should automatically think of USC. USC had the first entrepreneur program in the country, and we’ve consistently ranked among the top five nationally. Hopefully, my contribution—which celebrates the program’s 25th anniversary—will pave the way to being number one and enhance our reputation for producing successful entrepreneurs.”
Mr. Greif had no hesitation in making a gift of this magnitude when so many others his age are still preoccupied with building their careers.
“My wife, Renée, and I did not grow up with any degree of wealth. My father died when I was six years old and my mother was left to raise her two sons. I worked full time at Ralphs Grocery Co. while I was a full-time student at UCLA and USC,” says Mr. Greif.
“But ultimately you have to ask what in life truly gives you satisfaction—and how much money you really need. With our three children’s future secure, we can now turn to increasing our efforts to help others.”
Mr. Greif hopes his gift will encourage others to follow suit—particularly younger donors.
“This gift is a soul-fulfilling thing. Why should I wait until my seventh or eighth decade if I can afford to do it now? I’d rather have all those years to enjoy what my gift is doing for other people.”