William G. Hayter was like a kid on Christmas morning.
“I got my cap and gown and took it to be pressed,” said the 68-year-old alumnus, “and I am as excited as can be to join my daughter at my beloved USC’s Commencement ceremonies.”
Hayter, who graduated from the USC Marshall School of Business in 1966, only has one regret about his time at USC — he never got to participate in his graduation. His diploma, proudly displayed in his law office in Seal Beach, was mailed to him 46 years ago. As a transfer student from the University of California, Berkeley, Hayter had to take the summer to complete his degree and, in the process, missed out on his graduation ceremony.
Now, he finally will fulfill that wish. Hayter and his daughter, Kristen Lee, 28, who will receive her master’s degree from the USC Rossier School of Education, will walk together at Commencement on Friday.
Completing his studies at USC at the height of the Vietnam War, Hayter, who had planned to go straight into law school, followed in the footsteps of his father and two uncles and joined the U.S. Marines. Having completed two years of state-university-required ROTC training at UC Berkeley in the Marine Corps officer program, he accepted his officer’s commission to serve three years.
In his 10th month of duty in Vietnam as an artillery officer, Hayter was in a convoy of vehicles that was ambushed during the Tet Offensive.
“I got shot a total of six times,” Hayter recalled. “My injuries were multiple but not life-threatening.”
Three hours later, he was rescued by helicopter and flown to a MASH unit. After recovering, he finished his service as a training and embarkation officer at Camp Pendleton.
When Hayter got back to California in 1969, he enrolled in law school at California Western School of Law (formerly known as California Western University), where he was managing editor of the Law Review and graduated at the top of his class. For the past 33 years, he has maintained a private practice emphasizing estate planning, wills and trusts, and administration of estates.
Despite his career successes, however, Hayter still had one loose end to tie. Earlier this year, he contacted staff at USC Rossier, told them his story and asked to join his daughter for Commencement. Dean Karen Symms Gallagher gave him the green light.
As an alumnus and a loyal Trojan football fan since childhood, he can’t think of anything better than this.
“I follow my USC Trojans in football no matter where they are,” Hayter said. “My son, Scott, who’s 26, is a dyed-in-the-wool USC fan, and we go to all the games. … We’re a devoted USC family.”
His devotion for USC athletics goes beyond being a football season ticket holder. He is a Galen Center founder, acknowledged on a plaque in the home of USC’s basketball and volleyball teams. In addition, for more than three decades, he served as president of the Long Beach Trojan Club, president of the Trojan Club Board of Directors and vice president of the USC Trojan Board of Directors, groups that raise funds for USC athletics.
After Commencement, next on Hayter’s to-do list is to embrace his new role as father of the bride — he’ll be marrying off his daughter this summer.