The cadre of USC alumni who had earned their bachelor's degrees at least 50 years earlier met for the first time the morning of June 11, 1949.
Clarence W. Pierce, 1898 alumnus and founder of Los Angeles Pierce College, presided. The first topic was what to call the new group. They considered Trojans Emeritus, Emeritus and Yesteryear before voting on Half Century Club, USC. Pierce became the club’s first president.
Sixty years later, now called USC Half Century Trojans and on its 55th president, the group’s mission remains the same: to strengthen the bonds connecting USC alumni across generations and to perpetuate interest, spirit and a sense of belonging among the Trojan Family’s most senior and faithful members.
Some signature events include the annual Half Century Trojans Luncheon, Homecoming and new for 2009 Going Back to College Day. Members’ direct descendants who are incoming freshmen, transfer students or continuing USC students may apply for Half Century Trojans Scholarships.
Under the auspices of the USC Alumni Association, Half Century Trojans number 20,000 — about one-fifteenth of USC’s total living alumni population of roughly 300,000.
USC College alumni represent the overwhelming majority of members. Here are the tales of six College Half Century Trojans. An emeritus professor recalls his days as a student on the G.I. Bill; another recounts becoming the first woman captain of USC’s debate team; and another talks about enrolling in college as an African American woman before the Civil Rights Movement.
All are continuing the legacy of exemplary accomplishments as USC Half Century Trojans.
Fred Keenan ’37: A Wise Investment
Even as a youngster, Fred Keenan ’37 was a consummate businessman. His boyhood neighborhood became a treasure chest of job opportunities: He mowed lawns, delivered newspapers, and raised and sold chickens and rabbits.
Growing up during the Great Depression, he took nothing for granted. Each dollar he earned was a source of pride.
Naturally, Keenan was drawn to economics when he entered USC College in 1933. Working for his father’s plumbing supply company on Saturdays and during summers, he was eager to learn how all types of industries operated. He quickly decided business law was his niche.
A member of USC Legislative Council, Trojan Knights and several honorary societies, it was during one of his Sigma Chi fraternity’s events that Keenan met Blythe Rae Hawley, a Phi Beta Phi. The two married in 1938.
A year earlier, in the fall of 1937, Keenan entered law school. But three months later, his career path changed when his father’s plumbing company secured a lucrative contract with Camp Callan Army artillery replacement training center in San Diego. Keenan returned to his father’s company and never looked back.
Beginning in Keenan Pipe & Supply’s purchasing department, he ultimately rose to president in 1962. It took 25 years of hard, dedicated work to reach the top.
“Don’t give up, stick with it,” Keenan advised. “People nowadays change jobs too easily. I would urge them to stay where they are and work their way up.”
Keenan and his wife made their home in Glendale, Calif., and had two daughters Susan and Kathy. Susan also attended USC as did her daughters Noelle and Molly.
At 94, Keenan still runs Keenan Investment Company in Burbank, which he established in 1963 to construct modern warehouses with leasable office space.
With a penchant for saving since his youth, Keenan enjoys giving back to USC. His generous contributions have helped construct buildings, endow professorships and fund scholarships.
Half Century Trojans founder, the late Arnold Eddy ’24, first encouraged Keenan to attend USC and it was Eddy who recruited him to the Half Century Trojans Board. Keenan went on to serve as the group’s president and was recognized with its Distinguished Service Award in 2003. He is also a former member of the USC Board of Governors.
“There’s nothing like the Trojan Family,” Keenan said. “We love USC when we’re going to school and it never gets out of our systems.” —EC
Mary Kay Damson Arbuthnot ’46: A Sterling Character Still Shines
Yellowed newspaper clippings, matchbooks from her favorite haunts, black and white photos capturing an afternoon at the beach and elegant invites to dances at the Westside Tennis Club. All these items and more adorn the pages of Mary Kay Damson Arbuthnot’s meticulously assembled scrapbook.
The 1946 USC College alumna points to her favorite item.
“M.K. Damson Noted as Sterling ‘Character’” the Southern California Trojan headline reads.
A Colorado native, Arbuthnot arrived on campus in 1943 ready to make her mark.
Arbuthnot, a speech major, was active in the Delta Delta Delta sorority, Trojan Amazons and Phi Beta, the music and speech honorary society. She also judged and produced “Something for the Girls,” a variety show for women’s organizations campus-wide. For her efforts, she was chosen as one of El Rodeo’s Helens of Troy and recognized with the Senior Scroll of Honor.
Serving as vice-chairman and then chairman, Arbuthnot led the university’s American Red Cross college unit, which in the summer of 1943 was the first established on a Pacific Coast campus. For Arbuthnot, what began with assembling Christmas stockings for the men overseas blossomed into a steadfast dedication for supporting U.S. troops.
“We would take several station wagons out to the hospitals and just chat with the veterans,” she recalled. “Organizing the blood drives was also very memorable — seeing students lined up to give blood to the boys overseas.”
Following graduation, Arbuthnot became a service director for the American Red Cross’ Los Angeles chapter, overseeing 17 college campuses for three years. She later married USC trustee Ray Arbuthnot ’33 and the couple resided in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Throughout the years, Arbuthnot has remained an active Trojan.
“I can’t say ‘no’!” she said with a laugh.
She was involved with the Trojan Junior Auxiliary and Town and Gown, then held numerous leadership positions with USC organizations including president of Half Century Trojans, president of the Association of Trojan Leagues and chairman of the Alumnae Coordinating Council. Honored with the Half Century Trojans Distinguished Service Award in 2004, she also helped create the USC University Hospital Guild and found the Trojan League of the Foothills.
Arbuthnot, who now resides in Indian Wells, Calif., has been recognized with the Alumni Service Award and the Skull and Dagger Arnold Eddy Service Award, which she received with her husband. Yet, for this natural volunteer, it’s always been about the connections.
“I think the friendships were the No. 1 reason I chose to get involved as an alumna,” she said. “Those bonds continue on and on through life.” —EC
Gordon Gray ’48: A Man for All Seasons
Before Matt Leinart or Mark Sanchez, there was Gordon Gray.
Dubbed “Greyhound,” the All-City end on his San Francisco high school football team was sent to USC in 1943 under the Naval officer-training program.
“That was my first lucky break,” said Gray, a 1948 graduate with a bachelor’s in history. “I’ve been lucky all my life.”
But it was talent that made him a Trojan star player. During the 1944 Rose Bowl, the freshman playing at left end caught two touchdown passes in USC’s 29-0 upset victory over Washington. The Rose Bowl title capped an impressive 8-2 season.
The local media began a love affair with Gray, calling him a “speedboy halfback” and gushing that Gray “snagged passes as if he were a magnet attracting the traveling balls.”
Looking like a young Kirk Douglas and wearing a “33” jersey, his image sprinting and clutching the ball was splashed on front pages. An editorial cartoon depicted a floppy haired Gray reaching for the ball, stating: “Gordon Gray! Trojan’s rugged halfback — a rare combination of speed and power!”
After one winning game, then-head coach Jeff Cravath praised his players, ending with, “and please, Lord, don’t let anything happen to Gordon Gray.”
Then duty called. Gray was deployed to serve on a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Pacific. After World War II ended, he picked up where he left off, grabbing a team-best 13 passes and leading the Trojans to a 6-2 record in the 1946 season.
He met and married USC student Miriam Franz. “Prettiest girl on campus,” Gray said. After Gray graduated with academic honors, the couple had Gordon Jr. Although drafted by the then-L.A. Rams and the San Francisco 49ers, Gray, now a family man, opted for a career in insurance.
“Another wonderful thing about being a Trojan: great contacts,” Gray said.
The couple settled in Glendale, Calif., and had a second son, Richard. Gray eventually retired as supervisor of the world’s leading insurance firm Marsh & McLennan Companies. He worked in the firm’s L.A. office.
After 55 years of marriage, Miriam died. Now married to Patricia, the 84-year-old Gray has remained a steadfast supporter of USC. A member of the University Convocation Committee, he has served on the Alumni Association’s Board of Governors. He is past president of the Half Century Trojans and received its Distinguished Service Award.
With a full life, there’s no time to dwell on the glory days.
“Time marches on,” Gray said. “Good things are happening now.” —PJJ
Katherine Mosley Moore ’55: An Acute Case of Courage
A middle child raised by her father, Katherine Mosley Moore somehow felt that she was her family’s proverbial ugly duckling.
“We dressed exactly alike, but my sister got all the attention,” Moore said. “And my brother was the ‘handsome’ one.”
At a young age, she decided to be the smart one.
Moore’s father owned a dry cleaning business and neither of her siblings was interested in school. Yet, in grade school the youngster set a goal of graduating from college.
“I really don’t know where all of that determination came from,” she said. “I guess I was mature beyond my years.”
Although an honors student, success did not come easy. Attending high school in the late 1940s, before the Civil Rights Movement, counselors advised her not to bother applying to colleges.
“They advised my white friends to consider enrolling in the local colleges,” she recalled. “They said I wasn’t smart enough.”
She ignored the advice. She sought to become a registered nurse, which required a college degree.
“What one person said didn’t matter to me one bit,” she said. “I was so determined to achieve my goals that I wouldn’t let anything interfere.”
Growing up in South Los Angeles, she was accepted to USC’s nursing school, then-housed in USC College. After graduating in 1955, she worked at the L.A. County General Hospital and became head nurse in its communicable diseases unit.
Throughout the years, she was an L.A. County Health Department and L.A. Unified School District nurse, a nurse practitioner and occupational nurse. While employed full time, she earned a master’s in mental health from UCLA.
In 1957, she married Jerome Moore, a city inspector. They had son Timothy before divorcing in 1964.
When Moore became a Half Century Trojan, her life became fuller, she said. As a single, working mother, she had no time for extracurricular activities. Now actively involved in USC campus life, she’s making up for lost time. She has dedicated a room in her home to all things Trojan.
“I truly feel the spirit of the Trojan Family,” Moore, 77, said. “I love being on campus for any reason.”
Each time she stops by Tommy Trojan and reads the statue’s inscription describing the ideal Trojan as faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous, and ambitious, she smiles.
They are the same traits belonging to that young, determined girl who got her to where she is today. —PJJ
Bernard Pipkin ’53: A Grateful Patriot
Sitting in his Palos Verdes living room, overlooking the backyard tennis court where the 81-year-old still can deliver a crushing backhand, Bernard “Barney” Pipkin studies a photograph of his younger self.
The baby-faced man in Marine Corps dress blues with a high collar and shining brass buttons had been directed to attend college under the G.I. Bill. While at USC, he was called to serve in the Korean War.
“The military decided I needed a degree to be shot at so they sent me to college,” said the USC College alumnus and professor emeritus with a broad Johnny Carson-esque smile.
A native Angeleno who grew up in the Mid-Wilshire District and graduated from Los Angeles High School, Pipkin chose nearby USC. Planning for a lucrative career in the oil business, he earned his 1953 bachelor’s and 1956 master’s degrees in geological science.
But USC faculty members — including Bill Easton, Thomas Clements and Richard Stone — inspired him to take a different path. His road to professorship wasn’t a direct one.
He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona, worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, became a consulting engineer with his former professor, Clements, then started his own company, B.W. Pipkin & Associates.
Returning to USC in 1969, he rose through the ranks and became a professor of geological sciences, earning several teaching awards before his retirement in 1993.
Over the years, he has written many books on oceanography and environmental geology. USC is also where he met his wife of 51 years, Faye, who in 1956 earned her bachelor’s from the USC Rossier School of Education.
“The summer I graduated, I was taking a class with a friend and we were downstairs at The Grill,” Faye Pipkin reminisced of the day they met. “Barney came over with a cup of coffee and that was it.”
The couple has three children — all USC alumni — and five grandchildren.
In a way, their family dog is also a Trojan. Seventeen years ago, one of Pipkin’s graduate students found the precious stray nearly dead in bushes outside campus. The Pipkins adopted the terrier mix, nursed him to health and named him Ricky.
In recognition of a cherished mentor, the Pipkins created the Faye Taylor and Bernard W. Pipkin Charitable Remainder Trust at USC to benefit the Richard O. Stone Scholarship in Earth Sciences.
Now, peering at the photo of the rosy-cheeked young man in uniform, the Half Century Trojan recalls the days when the corridors at USC were filled with student war veterans, some disfigured from their battle wounds, grateful to be given the chance for a USC education.
“The G.I. Bill gave us an opportunity we never would have had otherwise,” Pipkin said.
“Maybe that’s what gives us such loyalty as Trojans.” —PJJ
Mildred Carman Farnsworth ’46: A Woman Ahead of Her Time
“Without question being the first woman captain of the USC Trojan Debate Squad was my maiden voyage for women’s liberation,” Mildred “Millie” Carman Farnsworth said.
At 17, Farnsworth entered USC in the fall of 1942 and became involved in numerous campus activities, including serving as president of the women’s service organization Trojan Amazons. But debate is where she found her calling.
“There’s no way I can truly express my appreciation for what debating gave me in terms of my own development — my ability to see both sides of a question, to make decisions based on evidence not on emotional overtones,” she said. “All of those things helped me to emerge as someone willing to take responsibility for her own actions.”
Farnsworth credits her faculty adviser, Dean Pearl Aiken Smith, with encouraging her to chart new academic ground and pursue an interdisciplinary degree in “The Arts,” which was similar to today’s USC Renaissance Scholars program. As Farnsworth recalls, she was the only graduate in the Class of 1946 who earned this distinction.
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and being named one of El Rodeo’s Helens of Troy for her outstanding record of student leadership, Farnsworth returned to her high school alma mater, Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra, Calif., to coach debate.
She took a break from coaching after her marriage to Virgil and the birth of their daughters Dana and Lisa, but later returned to the classroom at West Covina High School. There, she rose from substitute teacher to head of the school’s English department.
In later years when diagnosed with cancer, Farnsworth relied on her debating skills to calmly evaluate the situation and maintain an optimistic attitude that she believes was instrumental in her recovery. Farnsworth has been a cancer survivor for 30 years.
“It’s become a very personal crusade for me,” she said, “to share with others that you can take that experience, which hits you harder than almost anything I can think of, and get through it with a positive outlook.”
Active in many USC alumni organizations including Town and Gown, Farnsworth is a member and past president of the Half Century Trojans, the Trojan League Associates of the Foothills and the USC University Hospital Guild. She was honored with the Widney Alumni House Award in 1997 and the Alumni Service Award in 2008.
“I gained tremendously from my experience here,” she said. “Gratitude, not in the sense of a burden, but gratitude as an expansion of the person that you are is important for everyone to think about.” —EC