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When Trojans span generations, commencement becomes a family affair

Brynn Evans is graduating Friday, and her grandfather won’t be far away: As a Half Century Trojan, he’s walking in the ceremony, too

Courtney Evans, Brynn Evans, Miller Fong
Miller Fong, daughter Courtney Evans and granddaughter Brynn Evans comprise three generations of Trojans. (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

When Brynn Evans graduates Friday, she gets to share commencement not just with her professors, sorority sisters and friends but her grandfather. He’ll be walking in the ceremony, too.

“It’s much more fun than my own graduation,” Miller Fong, 76, said.

Fong, a lecturer at USC, walked his first commencement in 1964. And now, as a Half Century Trojan, he’ll be back again with his granddaughter, marking three generations of Trojans in the family. Fong’s daughter — Courtney Evans, Brynn’s mom — graduated from USC in 1990.

I’m really proud to be a Trojan with my mom and grandpa. It’s something so special that only we can really bond over.

Brynn Evans

“I’m really proud to be a Trojan with my mom and grandpa,” said Brynn Evans, who is majoring in public relations and minoring in business administration. “It’s something so special that only we can really bond over. It’s all different memories, but the same place.”

Fong remembers the first time he walked. He was a budding architect, who had grown up nearby in Downtown L.A. He learned to sketch while passing the time as a kid in his parents’ Chinese import store near 7th and Figueroa streets.

Since then he’s garnered international acclaim as both an architect and designer — particularly for his mid-century modern furniture, such as the rattan Lotus Chair that is in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s permanent collection. It’s a talent he got from his father, Danny Ho Fong, who designed the iconic Wave Chaise that’s in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In the ’60s, USC was one the few architecture schools in Southern California so Trojan architects were a tight bunch, Fong said; his mentors and instructors became his closest friends. Evans saw the same thing happen with her mom.

“I just grew up hanging out with my mom’s sorority friends,” she said.

They’d go to USC football games, tailgating with her mom’s college buddies at the Coliseum.

No pressure

She knew her family’s Trojan pride but didn’t feel pressure to go to USC, she said. Yet, it was always in the back of her mind.

“I always heard about it growing up,” said Evans, who grew up in Pasadena. “My senior year, when I ended up doing tours, I came with my mom. At the end of the tour, she’s like, ‘What do you think?,’ and I was like, ‘No matter what, I want to end up at USC.’”

Her mom says, while her daughter might have realized it late, she always saw her daughter as a Trojan.

“She just has always been the leader of the family,” Courtney Evans said. “It just made perfect sense that she’d go someplace where there’s so many opportunities and so many good people.”

Brynn Evans ended up following in her mom’s footsteps, joining Kappa Alpha Theta. Her mom would come to events and she’d run into her own sorority sisters, also there with their daughters.

Lunch with grandpa

Brynn Evans also got to share the campus with her grandfather, who teaches a notebook sketch course at the USC School of Architecture. When she wasn’t busy studying, he would to take her out to lunch on campus. Her cousin Mason Comerford, now a freshman, sometimes comes along.

“All my friends say, ‘I’m jealous you get to have lunch with your grandpa,’” she said. “I think that’s such a special thing that not many people get to do.”

Of the three Trojans in the family, Fong thinks his granddaughter taken advantage of the USC experience the most – going abroad to Amsterdam, forming close friendships and doing internships every semester. She’s worked at Christian Louboutin, artisanal milk maker Calafia Farms, Emerge Films and Herzog and Co. — all through USC connections.

“I think the education USC provides is great but also the network is just untouchable compared to other schools,” Brynn Evans said.

While Evans will be getting a lot of hoots and hollers from the stand, her grandfather points out – she’s not the only one.

“I brag to everyone I lead the commencement,” Fong said with a laugh. “My students yell ‘Professor Fong!’”

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When Trojans span generations, commencement becomes a family affair

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