96-year-old World War II veteran becomes oldest USC graduate

Alfonso Gonzales, 96, University of Southern California's oldest graduating Trojan receives his Bachelor of Science degree in zoology diploma from USC surrounded by family members, as part of the 2016 USC Commencement ceremony, on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Gus Ruelas/USC via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) – It took more than 60 years but a University of Southern California student has finally received his diploma.

Ninety-six-year-old Alfonso Gonzales received a bachelor of science degree in zoology on Friday, making him the oldest graduate in USC history.

The World War II veteran thought he’d already graduated when he skipped commencement exercises in 1953 because of work obligations. He was founding a soil company that he ran for 55 years.

But when relatives recently approached the university about getting a copy of his diploma, they learned he was one unit short.

Although the school no longer offers a zoology major, it crafted an independent study course through the gerontology school that included reading, video assignments, visiting other classes, and writing a thesis about his life.

USC officials call Gonzales a “wonderful inspiration.”

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