USC 2024 commencement, Trojan Family Graduate Celebration

Soon-to-be graduates with the USC Trojan Marching Band show their spirit during Thursday night’s event at the Coliseum. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)


USC graduates and families get Coliseum send-off at Trojan Family Graduate Celebration

COMMENCEMENT: The event gave the USC Class of 2024 one final moment in the Coliseum as students.

May 10, 2024 By Grayson Schmidt

A brisk night under the lights at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is usually a fall tradition at USC. However, on Thursday night, the lights were on, the torch was lit, the USC Trojan Marching Band was on the field, and cardinal and gold-clad Trojan supporters flowed through the gates. Fireworks illuminated the Coliseum, and drones spelled out the iconic “Fight On” in the sky.

But this wasn’t a football game — it was the first-ever Trojan Family Graduate Celebration, a night that gave the Class of 2024, as well as their families and friends, a memorable send-off.

Nadine Watt, president of the USC Alumni Association Board of Governors, said that although Thursday’s event was a break from the norm, it was a fitting way to salute the latest class of Trojans.


USC 2024 commencement, Trojan Family Graduate Celebration
The drones join in saluting this year’s graduates. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

“I can’t think of a better place to celebrate than the Coliseum,” said Watt, who spoke from a stage near the east end zone of the field. “My hope is that tonight brought back [Coliseum] memories, and that you have new ones to take with you.”

Words of encouragement

USC alumni, academic deans and supporters shared pre-recorded words of encouragement with the Class of 2024. Comedian and television host Jimmy Kimmel, comedian and actor Will Ferrell, actor Mark Hamill, athletics coaches and USC athletic director Jennifer Cohen, among others, acknowledged that this class in particular pushed through unprecedented times to reach this milestone.

“Getting into USC and graduating from one of the most prestigious universities in the world is not a small feat,” Cohen said. “Thank you for making our community so special, and remember that you’re always a part of the Trojan Family.”

Actor Matthew Lillard — the father of a current Trojan who graduated from high school in 2020 — lauded the Class of 2024 for its perseverance through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To be accepted to such an incredible institution and then graduate in four short years is an absolute achievement,” Lillard said.

A rare celebration at the Coliseum

DJ duo Phantogram provided music for the crowd of 22,500 people at Thursday’s celebration before USC Song and the Trojan Marching Band made their way onto the field, the latter performing such USC staples as “Fight On” and “Tusk.” Between the performers on the field, fans in the stands, and lines that wrapped around concession stands and merchandise booths, Thursday’s celebration was like a Trojan-themed music festival. Additionally, as a gift from the university, all graduates received a USC-themed snapback hat from Cactus Jack, rapper Travis Scott’s clothing brand.

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“I was impressed with how they pulled the event off so last-minute,” said attendee Chloe Barker, who was graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the USC Roski School of Art and Design. “It was nice to come back to the Coliseum one last time [as a student].”

Annie Shick, who is earning a bachelor’s in journalism from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, also appreciated the opportunity to gather with her friends at the Coliseum. “I’d never seen anything like that drone show before,” Shick added. “They should do it every year from now on.”

USC 2024 commencement, Trojan Family Graduate Celebration
Performers help the crowd of thousands celebrate the Class of 2024. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Prior to Thursday night, there had only been two commencements — or commencement-related events — at the Coliseum in the past 75 years. The last commencement ceremony held at the facility was in 2021. That celebration also honored the previous year’s class following the postponed ceremony in 2020.

“It’s really auspicious for all of us to be here as a spiritual community in this sacred space — the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum,” USC Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni said. “The only facility to host two — going on three — Olympic Games, two Super Bowls, one World Series, and most importantly for our purposes, the first-ever Trojan Family Graduate Celebration.”

Joining the Trojan alumni family

Several Trojan greats sent recorded congratulations to the Class of 2024, including Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen and former Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley, who welcomed them into the Trojan alumni community.

“The Trojan Family is extremely proud of you,” Allen said. “As you move on in life, you must remember this very important thing: Always Fight On.”

Four-time Olympic gold medal swimmer Janet Evans, who currently serves as the chief athlete officer of LA28, the organizing committee for the 2028 L.A. Summer Olympics, also addressed the crowd. Evans highlighted the importance of a degree from USC, and how all the lessons learned here — in and out of the classroom — will prepare graduates for the road ahead.

“It’s a big world out there — we’re not always going to win gold medals,” Evans said. “We’re not always going to win the race, but this place prepared me for the ups and downs of what life brought me outside of the swimming pool. There is no better degree for you to have — there is no greater place that supports you than the alumni here at USC.”

USC 2024 commencement: Trojan Family Graduation Celebration
How many USC icons can you find in this photo from Thursday night? (USC Photo/Steve Cohn)