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Veterans Day 2020

Dear USC Viterbi Community:


It's been many years since my own military service back in Greece. 


I remember it well. I was 30, on my third-year as assistant professor at USC when I got the message: return to Greece for six months to fulfill your military obligation. Though my time was brief, the abiding respect for service was not. 


I am writing today as we celebrate Veterans Day 2020 to honor those heroes among us.
There are currently 91 U.S. active duty military and veteran students enrolled in USC Viterbi degree programs. Not to mention the countless alumni, parents, faculty and staff who are both Trojan engineers and members of the armed services.


I want to take a moment to thank them for their selfless service. They and their loved ones' commitment to protecting our country makes it possible for institutions such as the University of Southern California to flourish. On this day, they deserve our gratitude and recognition.


One of those heroic engineers is Jonathan Messer, a naval aviator aboard the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower.


Jonathan is pursuing his second master's degree at USC Viterbi. And due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he and the Eisenhower crew endured a record 206 consecutive days at sea, shattering the old World War 2 era Navy record. That's one way to experience distance learning!


Another remarkable veteran student is Edward Proulx, a Marine pilot who is pursuing his degree in astronautical engineering in hopes of becoming an astronaut.


Edward has flown with the Marines all over the world. For him, "Veterans Day is a day to remember the sacrifices that we have asked our service members to make. But more importantly, it is a day for us to think about our involvement in the process that determines what sacrifices our service members are asked to make on our behalf."


And, of course, there's General (Ret.) Ellen M. Pawlikowski, a remarkable chemical engineer who devoted over 40 years of service to the military, reaching the rank of four-star general before joining the USC Viterbi faculty last year.
We at the USC Viterbi School have dedicated ourselves to ensuring that our veterans and active-duty personnel, whether in a classroom in downtown Los Angeles or thousands of miles away over a computer in Iraq or Afghanistan, receive the best and most supportive engineering education found anywhere. We take this directive quite seriously. Others have noticed our commitment.
In 2018, U.S. News and World Report ranked USC #5 in the category of "Best Colleges for Veterans." Additionally, in 2020, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering was ranked #1 in Information Technology (Computer Science) Programs for Veterans; #4 in Engineering Programs for Veterans; and received the ASEE Engineering Excellence for Veterans Award in 2017 for initiatives like the Yellow Ribbon program, a pledge to provide an unlimited number of partial scholarships to veterans admitted to any M.S. programs.


I am proud of that recognition. However, I feel far more honored by the choices of veterans like Jonathan, Edward and General Pawlikowski to join the Trojan family. 

We hope you will enjoy reading their stories.  


Warmest regards,



Yannis C. Yortsos
Dean, USC Viterbi School of Engineering



Feature Image
U.S. Air Force officer and astronautical engineering graduate student, Edward Proulx, prepares to fly into space at USC.
Feature Image
Jonathan Messer, M.S. '18, put his systems engineering degree to use during a global pandemic and a humanitarian mission in Central America. He's now taking it to outer space.
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