Officials Salute Student Achievement in Outdoor Commencement
“USAO has always and will always attract the brightest minds,” said Dr. Sanders Huguenin to a record-breaking crowd of 1,600 at the University of Science and Arts spring commencement. On Friday night, Huguenin, vice president of academic affairs, addressed the audience during the university’s first outdoor commencement in nearly 50 years. His message was one of student achievement. (read full Huguenin address here)
Throughout his tribute, Huguenin spotlighted stories of how students are affecting their communities, helping others and using their interests and strengths to contribute to those around them, both on the campus and abroad.
“From reading the papers or watching the news these days, it’s easy to get the impression that everywhere things are getting worse,” he said. “But from what I’ve seen from our students, I’d say that there’s probably never been a more ‘volunteeristic,’ civic minded and active generation of college students.”
Citing specific examples such as Hurricane Katrina relief, large-scale fundraising for charitable causes, state and national research presentations and more, Huguenin emphasized the many contributions USAO students are making.
Huguenin also focused on the impact the students have made on the campus. “USAO is such a small and familial school that, especially after students have been here a few years, they really become part of the fabric,” he said.
“As I sit here, I find myself becoming a little bit sad,” he said. “I see all these students I know, these successful, committed students, crossing the stage and taking their degrees, and I think to myself, ‘Geez, who’s left?’ I guess that’s a much better feeling than, ‘Whoops, I wonder how that one slipped through.’
“It’s certain in my mind that the main reason USAO can maintain the superlative faculty it has is due to the great satisfaction they receive from knowing their students by name, watching them change over the course of their college years and seeing evidence that what faculty do makes a difference to students as individuals.
“We’re a small place with limited resources, and part of the way we get things done is by relying on the responsibility, intelligence and skills of our undergraduate students,” he said. “Wherever you go on this campus, you’re likely to find students answering the phones, doing the filing, giving the tours, taking the photographs, shelving the books and working the counter. We rely on them a great deal.
“That’s why it’s really a little difficult for me to think of this place without these people,” he said.
He ended with a memorial of Isaac Tsonetokoy, a computer science student from Chickasha who died of cancer earlier this year. Though his health was failing, Tsonetokoy stayed his course toward a degree – even learning at home when he became too debilitated to come to class. His determination became an icon highly valued by the USAO faculty who knew him.
“He was earnest, hardworking and cheerful,” Huguenin said. “He valued education in its own right; right up to the very end. He was invariably polite and considerate, qualities that my colleagues and I all understood to bespeak of a gentle and giving spirit.”
Backed by a vibrant blue sky and unseasonably perfect, 70-degree spring weather, USAO President John Feaver welcomed the crowd and praised the graduates for assisting faculty in enhancing USAO’s distinctiveness. But he focused primarily on recent successes of the college as whole, a collection of talented individuals who excel together.
“As a state liberal arts college, it is one of the oldest in the United States,” Feaver said. But what makes these times so extraordinary, and worthy of our examination, is that our century old mission is receiving a level of attention and support that is unprecedented in my experience in Oklahoma higher education – nearly 50 years.”
During the past five years, state officials have begun to take note of USAO’s achievements and distinctiveness, he said.
He quoted Oklahoma leaders with statements such as, “We like your college mission, we like its 100-year-old pedigree, we like the quality and rigor of your academic programs, we like the quality of your faculty and we like the national recognition you’re attracting to Oklahoma through your consistent high ranking in U.S. News and World Report.”
To enhance its quality, USAO last fall earned a $2.2 million infusion of new funds to hire more faculty and improve campus life and fund raising – evidence of the college’s potential and forward momentum, he said.
The ceremony took place south of Owens Flag Plaza on the oval, with overflow seating in the Davis Hall Amphitheater. The commencement also was broadcast live on USAO Channel 18.
Feaver explained two reasons why the commencement was held outdoors on Friday evening. First, Troutt Hall Main Auditorium is closed for renovations before the world premiere of a major Off-Broadway production called “Te Ata.” Opening night is scheduled Aug. 5 for this musical production about the life of Indian storyteller Te Ata Fisher (1895-1995), who earned an international reputation for her life-affirming stories, after graduating from the Oklahoma College for Women in 1919.
The other reason commencement moved outdoors is that graduating seniors requested it as an alternative to other venues off-campus.
The ceremony began with the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” processional, performed by Dr. Stephen Weber, associate professor of music. Graduating music seniors Rachael (Bourn) Sweeden of Oklahoma City and Shannan Osborn of Minco sang “For Good” by Stephen Schwartz, accompanied by music senior Rhenada Finch of Lindsay.
Feaver praised longtime alumni leader Myrtle Stevens, who has served for 12 years as the director of Alumni Affairs and previously as president of the Alumni Association.
“Throughout her life,” he said, [she has been] a generous benefactor to the university … she has been kind and generous and understanding.” Stevens, who is retiring in August, taught home economics and earned two degrees from USAO and a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma.
The Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate award was presented to the following three students by Nancy Calhoun, the association’s president elect. All three are Hypatia Honor Society students who were selected by an alumni committee after submitting letters of application and résumé.
Nathan Allan Foster of Norman graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science in natural science as well as minor degrees in biology and liberal arts. He was a member of multiple campus and community organizations and events.
On the basketball court, he played varsity for three years and was named Academic All-Sooner Athletic Conference in 2005. He was a member of the Beta Beta Beta biological society and National Technological Honor Society. Additionally, Foster has led music at the USAO Baptist Student Union since 2003. He was vice president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) from 2003-04 and was president from 2004-05.
Natalie Diane Ingraham of Edmond graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science in psychology. She was a member of several campus honor societies, including the Psi Chi (psychology), Pi Gamma Mu (social science) and Alpha Lambda Delta (freshmen).
Ingraham also was involved in state and national organizations, such as the American Psychology Association and the Oklahoma Psychology Society. At USAO, she led in various roles in the Student Activities Board, Student Association, Freshman Orientation, the Feminist Collective, the Literary Club and the Droverstock Committee. She starred in and co-directed The Vagina Monologues and volunteered at the Women’s Service and Family Resource Center in Chickasha.
Faith Michelle Skinner of Choctaw graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts in music and a minor in art. Throughout her academic career, she was the recipient of multiple music and academic scholarships such as Loyal Daughters OCW, MacDowell Club, Novikow Music, Katheryn Kniseley Bond and more.
A musician of multiple talents, Skinner plays the flute, piano, piccolo, violin, percussion and handbells. She performed in USAO’s concert band and choir, as well as several other campus and community ensembles for various events. She also displayed artwork in several campus art shows and competitions. Skinner was a member of the Art Club, the History Club, the Literary Club and Alpha Lambda Delta.
Faculty selected outstanding graduates from each of the university's academic divisions. Shannan Marie Osborn of Minco was named outstanding graduate in the Division of Arts and Humanities. Two students were chosen for the Division of Business and Social Sciences: Heather Ashley Buchberger of Lawton and Natalie Diane Ingraham of Edmond. In the Division of Education and Speech Language Pathology, Kristi DeeAnn Locke of Fort Cobb was named outstanding graduate. Russell R. Dull Jr. of Chickasha received the honor in the Division of Sciences and Physical Education.
Dr. Kenneth Bohannon, associate professor of music, led graduates and guests in singing “The College Hymn,” accompanied by Weber on the organ. Dr. Dan Hanson, professor of music, performed the recessional, “Forever Young,” by music legend Rod Stewart. Members of the honor societies, Alpha Lambda Delta and Hypatia, served as ushers for the event.
Special guests at the ceremony included members of the USAO Board of Regents: restaurateur Ed Hicks of Chickasha, businesswoman Patti Rogstad of Chickasha and Regents Chairman Gretchen Roddy. Feaver introduced and offered a heartfelt salute to Hicks, who will leave the Board of Regents in June following a seven-year term.
“Ed has served as a regent to college for seven years with distinction,” Feaver said. “He supported the college in difficult times and good times, always serving as cheerleader for its success. He will be missed.”
Near the end of the ceremony, Feaver addressed the students and their new titles. “You are no longer seniors, you are no longer graduating seniors, you are graduates,” he said. “As graduates, you are our profound joy … you’re also something else that’s new: you’re alumni.”
Feaver issued 66 bachelor of science degrees, 37 bachelor of arts degrees, and nine bachelor of fine arts degrees.
Receiving bachelor of science degrees were:
Alex: Shawna Kay Hatchett
Anadarko: David DeWayne Adams, Jhavarr Mondrae Swift
Apache: Julie Ann Josey
Ardmore: Ryan Wayne Brunk
Bethany: Damon Edward Taulbee
Blanchard: Daniel Roger French, Rebekah Ann Lippard, Stephanie Renee Sheid NeSmith, Matt Robert Srum
Cashion: Nikki Sue Mays
Cement: Chase Glen Setters
Chattanooga: Christina Marie Brown
Chickasha: Broderick Chambers Akoneto, Russell R. Dull Jr. (summa cum laude), Allen J. Jacobson, Summer Beth Lee, Gene Robert Pool (cum laude)
Comanche: Thomas David Knight
Del City: Alexandria Erin Brown, Crystal Melrise Craig
Dewey: Aundria Chiloe Jennings
Dibble: Candice Inez Ellis
Edmond: Natalie Diane Ingraham (summa cum laude)
Elgin: Kristi L. Bell
Fort Cobb: Kristi DeeAnn Locke
Guthrie: Teresa Jane Humphrey
Jenks: Stephanie Annett Russell
Lindsay: Shayna Ranee Dowdell, Lisa Marie England
Mangum: Amber Shayne Bogart, Michael D. Collier
Moore: Hollie Brianne Gauntt, Stacy Lynn Morrow (magna cum laude)
Noble: Allison Nicole Hurst, Shelly Kay Thompson
Norman: Nathan Allan Foster (magna cum laude), Jennifer Russella Garrett, Kimberly Rose McBee, Cynthia Ann Williamson
Oklahoma City: Emily Beatrice Howell, Faisal Shoeb Madni, Destiny LeAnn McNabb, John Alan Micue (summa cum laude), Erin Rae Mullins
Pawnee: Rayan Godberson
Rush Springs: Jennifer Dawn Trammell
Tulsa: Kristopher Michael Kolar
Tuttle: Jodeann Jeline Parrish
Union City: Shanna Aliesa Loughridge
Velma: Ernest Palacol III
Verden: Jessica Lynn Chiles
Washington: Annette Marie Keeler
OUT OF STATE:
Abilene, Texas: Linnie Nelda Davis
Albuquerque, N.M.: Melanie Lynn Myers
Bishop, Calif.: Sondra Jean Davis
Calif.: Tony Jimmerson
Carrollton, Texas: Maryann Chibuogu Nwatah
Gabon: Bello Illiassou
Granbury, Texas: Tria'Shonda Elizabeth Roberta Gaines (magna cum laude)
Heidelberg, Germany: Catherine Elizabeth McPhee
Holliday, Texas: Jason Mack Bobbitt
Lakewood, Calif.: Jeffrey James Dobbins
Nairobi, Kenya: Boniface Ochina Oballa
Nassau, Bahamas: Horace Arnott Pierre
Winter Haven, Fla.: Rebecca Nicole Wasson
Receiving bachelor of arts degrees were:
Altus: Beverly Kay Summitt
Anadarko: Cynthia E. Coffey
Blanchard: Michael Grady Wood
Chandler: Jason Scott Sherman
Chickasha: Mary Lucinda Elledge, Steve Robert Forshee, Justin Glen Hightower, Jarod Matthew King, Karrie Lynn Springstead
Choctaw: Annica Lynn Canady (summa cum laude), Faith Michelle Skinner (summa cum laude)
Comanche: Christie Ann Moore
Dibble: Brian Lee Tallant
Henryetta: Rachael LeeAnn Bourn Sweeden (summa cum laude)
Hobart: Amanda Dawn Wikel
Indianola: Jenifer Linn McElyea
Jones: Emily C. Glenn (summa cum laude)
Kremlin: Katherine Lynn Shaklee (cum laude)
Lawton: Heather Ashley Buchberger
Lindsay: Mark Edward Mason (summa cum laude), Quinn Michael Simonton
Marlow: Christopher Michael Davis, Carisa Sue Weeaks
Minco: Shannan Marie Osborn
Norman: Jeremy L. Garner, Lindi Rene McLaughlin (summa cum laude), Thomas Alan Proctor (cum laude)
Oklahoma City: John Alan Micue (summa cum laude)
Purcell: Jon Mavor Corea
Pauls Valley: Alyssa Marie Cumbie, James Ryan Mayberry
Sapulpa: Andrea Fawn Taylor (summa cum laude)
Tulsa: Nicole Vanessa Sherman (cum laude)
OUT OF STATE:
Alexandria, Va.: Terri Lyn Clark
Casper, Wyo.: Rhenada Marlene Finch (cum laude)
Spring, Texas: Megan Nicole Victor
St. Marys, Ohio: Billie Jo Rohr (cum laude)
Receiving a bachelor of fine arts degree were:
Anadarko: Kelly David Woodring
Laverne: Michelle Phoebe McClung
Lindsay: Dovie S. Hines (magna cum laude)
Moore: Heidi Elizabeth Helmers
Norman: Ashley Nicole Winkle
Oklahoma City: Andréa Mitchelle Anderson, Sara Marie Garner (cum laude)
Shawnee: Shelley Marie Thompson
Weatherford: Courtney Lynn Hunnicutt