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World War II veteran, 96, to become USC’s oldest graduate

World War II veteran, 96, to become USC’s oldest graduate

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March 21, 2016

When Alfonso “Ponchie” Gonzales finishes his last credit at the University of Southern California, the 96-year-old World War II veteran will become the oldest graduate in school history.

Gonzales was born on Jan. 23, 1920, when USC had only been in existence for 40 years. After graduating from Redondo High School in 1939, he joined the military, serving in the Marines in Okinawa during World War II. In 1947, the Southern California native transferred from Compton Junior College to USC, and later went on to run his own successful landscaping business, using valuable skills he learned at the university.

Gonzales’ family made a surprising discovery decades later when they looked into getting his diploma to frame on the wall. “I thought all I had to do was go over there and pick up my diploma,” he told ABC 7. “But I was one unit short, they told me.” Working with school officials, Gonzales got to work finishing up his final credit, joking, “I’ll go through what they want me to. I’m only 96.” It was fun to make history, Pinchas Cohen, the dean of USC’s School of Gerontology, said. “We would do whatever it takes to reach this goal,” he told ABC 7. “He is a special student and we are all delighted to have him here”.


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