The Long Path to Troy

January 30, 2016
• by
Rick Garcia

It took me a few years to find USC, but when I did, I found my home. Just days ago, I sent in my final student loan payment. Those who have experienced this likely remember the amazing sense of accomplishment and independence.

I didn’t follow a traditional path, because, frankly, I didn’t imagine getting into college when I was 18. My parents were of Mexican descent and started a life in the Bay Area. They soon had a house full of kids. Times were challenging, and I was eager to contribute. While in high school, I started working full-time at McDonald’s. Fortunately, I had incredible mentors and worked my way through the ranks over the next decade. But I felt I was missing something.

By chance, I learned about USC from an alumnus and started going to football games. I was immediately embraced by the Trojan family, and that really opened my eyes to greater possibilities. I became determined to come to USC.

At 26, I took on a full course load at a community college while working 50 hours a week. I commuted hundreds of miles a day and attended multiple community colleges while working as a corporate executive. I worked hard to transfer into USC Marshall, did well and earned my degree when I was 30.

It was not easy, but as my late dad always said, “Go for it…Life is short!” My degree has afforded me life-changing opportunities: working in executive management roles for multiple Fortune 500 companies, owning my own business, traveling the world, an invaluable education and an extensive network. Until I came to USC, I didn’t know that such a world existed.

I was one of the few in my family to go to college, but I won’t be the last. Years ago I would take my teenaged nieces to USC games. One, now an engineer at General Motors, graduated with honors from another top university but proudly held her fingers high in salute to USC and called out “Fight On!” during her commencement ceremony. The other is about to graduate. Both have told me that had I not taken them to those games, they might never have gone to college.

Over the past decade, I have volunteered with the USC Marshall Alumni Association and served in numerous leadership positions. I was the first Latino President in Orange County and am proud to be the first Latino Chairman of the Marshall Alumni Association. What you get out of volunteering is even greater than what you put in.

Pave the Way

I am grateful for those at USC who believed in me, and I want to expand access and opportunities for the next generation of leaders. At some point we all needed help. I feel strongly that it’s our responsibility to pay it forward and give back to the school, just as thousands of people have done before us.

I’m supporting the brick-naming campaign for Marshall’s new undergraduate building. I know that not everyone is in the position to give $1,000 to inscribe a brick, but I ask you to consider it or pitch in with others to leave a legacy.

We can all find a way to say thanks and help pave the way for the future. I’ve had an incredible experience with USC and it keeps getting better. Imagine what we can do together.

The most important part of my Marshall experience was joining the close-knit Trojan family. Its legacy has become a reality for my own family. My hope is that my contributions will help broaden horizons and open doors for many generations to come.

Thank you, USC Marshall. Thank you, Trojan family.

Rick Garcia ’02
Chairman, USC Marshall Alumni Association
Director of Operations at WisdomEdge, a partner

Thought Box
“We can all find a way to say thanks and help pave the way for the future. I’ve had an incredible experience with USC and it keeps getting better. Imagine what we can do together.”