Melanie Eisenhower leads tributes to her grandmother, First Lady Pat Nixon

Melanie Eisenhower joined Dr. C. L. Max Nikias, President of the University of Southern California, to lead more than 500 members of the “Trojan family” in honoring First Lady Pat Nixon, class of 1937.

Tuesday’s celebration at Town and Gown marked 80 years since Mrs. Nixon’s graduation. To recognize the occasion, the Richard Nixon Foundation joined with Town and Gown of USC to curate The Trojan First Lady: Celebrating 80 Years of USC’s Global Ambassador, a new, special exhibit on the life and lasting legacy of one of USC’s most distinguished alumnae.

Patricia Ryan enrolled at USC in 1934 and graduated cum laude in 1937; her degree in merchandising carried the equivalent of a Master’s, thus she is the first first lady to receive a Master’s degree. The University awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1961.

The new exhibit —located on the first floor of the Town and Gown building— contains more than 40 iconic images of her trips to more than 75 countries around the world, as well as original campaign buttons and mementos reading “Pat for First Lady” and a special section on her undergraduate years at USC.

Ms. Eisenhower joined Dr. Nikias to open the new exhibit, and unveil a newly refurbished portrait of Mrs. Nixon that was commissioned by Ambassador and Mrs. Walter Annenberg in 2000 — with a new plaque.

“What she accomplished in her 81 years is nothing short of extraordinary,” Eisenhower said. “Her story is, I think, the ultimate example of triumph over extreme adversity.”

“I think that today, the world can use a little bit of Pat Nixon’s love, and a bit of her example.”

-Melanie Eisenhower 

“I think that today, the world can use a little bit of Pat Nixon’s love, and a bit of her example.”

“I’ve carried her love and warmth with me through the years… My grandmother’s ability to radiate love and kindness to all she knew has made a deep impact on me.”

Nixon Foundation President Bill Baribault read a special message sent from the White House for this memorable occasion from Mrs. Nixon’s successor, First Lady Melania Trump.

“Mrs. Nixon is a model first lady who acted with courage and determination to advance the lives of the underprivileged, the sick and the forgotten,” Mrs. Trump wrote.

“Mrs. Nixon is a true role model for us all. I join in honoring her legacy of service and love for humanity, which is worthy of our admiration and remembrance.”

The letter from Mrs. Trump was featured earlier that morning on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom with Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith.

Videos sent from First Ladies Rosalynn Carter, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush were also played at the ceremony.

Earlier this year, Town and Gown of USC awarded three students with its prestigious Pat Nixon Scholarship; two Pat Nixon Scholars, Bernadette Lucas and John Bacolores, opened the special exhibit with Ms. Eisenhower and Dr. Nikias.

“The Town and Gown scholarship has meant the world to me,” Ms. Lucas said. “Rossier has four pillars of education: leadership, learning, accountability and diversity. I researched First Lady Nixon and she was the embodiment of all four of those things. I am honored to receive this scholarship.”



The exhibit features Mrs. Nixon’s 1937 diploma from USC, as well as a graduation announcement and an honorary doctorate the University Trustees awarded her in 1961, in addition to more than 40 iconic images.

The exhibit is graced with a portrait of Pat Nixon that was commissioned in 2000 by Ambassador and Mrs. Walter Annenberg, namesakes of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and lifelong friends of President and Mrs. Nixon.

The exhibit will remain open into 2018.