Before leaving for World War II, freshman Ed Flory was summoned by USC President Rufus Bernhard von KleinSmid. At a time when nearly all young male students went to war, the fifth president gave as many as he could a USC identification card with his best wishes.
Speckled with gold, the card became a talisman for Flory, who kept it with him during his service in the European theater. The card was tucked in his pocket when he fought with the Army’s 4th Armored Division and during the historic Battle of the Bulge.
“That card was my connection to USC,” Flory said. “While I was serving, I was never away from campus in a sense.”
Returning to USC nearly four years later, Flory was not the same 18-year-old innocent kid eager to live elbow deep in the trenches. Now intensely interested in world politics, he switched from pre-med and graduated with a bachelor’s in international relations from USC Dornsife in 1949. He started on his master’s with hopes of working in the United States foreign services.
Chosen to take the entry test in Washington, D.C., he couldn’t afford the trip. Moreover, the job wouldn’t begin for three years.
“I had to survive so I was pointed in other directions,” said Flory, who found work at the State Compensation Insurance Fund in Los Angeles. In 1961, he returned to his hometown, Porterville, Calif., where he worked for the Tulare County Public Works Department until he retired as right-of-way acquisitions manager in 1984.
In Porterville, a city of nearly 55,000 residents, 51 miles northeast of Bakersfield, Flory is a celebrity. He’s been inducted into the Porterville High School Wall of Fame, is the Rockford School District trustees’ president, and Porterville Memorial District’s board chair overseeing the local Veteran’s Day Parade, California’s largest, for 34 years.
A third-generation Portervillian, Flory has been a Trojan football season ticket holder for decades and is a Half Century Trojan. Manning a booth at a homecoming event, Flory recalled someone asking his son if he was a Trojan.
“Yes I am,” Joseph replied. “I didn’t go to school here but I’m definitely a Trojan.”