USAO’s Split Commencement Draws Record Crowd
CHICKASHA – A record-breaking crowd gathered April 20 at the University of Science and Arts for the college’s first split-venue, live simulcast of commencement. Nearly 2,000 guests, students, faculty and staff members filled the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium and the USAO Field House in what may be the largest commencement ceremony ever held at USAO.
“Let me begin by saying what a wonderful class this is and how sad it is for us as faculty to see so many great students leaving us,” said Dr. Sanders Huguenin, vice president of academic affairs. “Always at this time of year I wonder how the place will ever be the same without all of these students we’ve come to know so well.”
Calling on lessons from history, Huguenin pointedly used war elephants, tattoos and quantum physics to challenge students about new technology, changing perspectives and seeking truth.
“The first great lesson of history involves, of course, elephants,” he said, “I mean, so many of the great lessons of life do. Twenty-five hundred years ago, tanks were called elephants.
“They were big, as big as anything the Romans had ever seen before,” he said. “But the Romans came up with a solution and maybe this is why we run into so few elephants on modern battlefields. What you do is you take a small cage, a pig, a brush, a big pail of tar, and a Zippo lighter. You paint the pig with the tar, point the cage towards the elephant, light that oinker and let him go. Apparently nothing scares elephants like a squealing, burning pig racing towards them.
“I think what the Roman incendiary pig shows us is that the intelligent use of technology is at least as important as the cleverness of a new technology itself. The innovative use of simple tools is often better than mediocre use of much flashier tools, so be clever and adaptable enough to work well with what you’ve got.”
Huguenin relayed a story of Field Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who rose from modest circumstances during the French Revolution to eventually become king of Sweden. Originally a private in the French army, Bernadotte was named a prince by Napoleon Bonaparte. When the king of Sweden died without heirs, Swedes began searching for a new king. Bernadotte’s position and relationship to Bonaparte made him a great candidate for the job.
He was crowned king of Sweden and, upon his death at 81, Bernadotte’s family and Swedish nobility discovered a tattoo on his arm of a skull and crossed daggers with a scroll that read in French: death to all kings.
“The moral of this story is clearly: listen to your mother and don’t get a tattoo,” Huguenin said. “The other lesson worth noting is that your ideas are going to change over the course of your lifetime: not necessarily all your ideas, but almost certainly some of the ideas that seemed great when you were 22 may seem a little outmoded when you’re 81 and king of Sweden. So keep an open mind.”
Huguenin ended with a lesson from World War II.
“What you may not know is that the Germans lost, partly, because in the 1930s, Hitler and the Nazi party rejected relativity and quantum theory because so many key figures in their discovery had been Jewish,” Huguenin said, “and Nazi doctrine was clear that Jews were culture destroyers, incapable of creating sound new scientific principles.
“Instead of ‘Jewish physics,’ which works and can be used to make A-bombs, the Nazi state threw its support behind a new ‘Aryan physics,’” he said, “which, while it was contrived by German Nazis, did not work, still does not work and can’t be used to create bombs or much of anything else. And that’s why this speech is in English.
“I think the lesson of this story,” he said, “is you’ll be more successful if you change your theories to fit the facts than if you insist on changing the facts to fit your theories.”
“So there you have it, the three great lessons of history,” he said. “Even big problems can be solved with common household items and small livestock, if you’re just resourceful enough. Don’t get a tattoo. You’re simply stuck with the laws of physics – so learn to live with it. That’s it. Now you’re ready for life on the outside.”
USAO President John Feaver also used history to paint a picture for the graduates, looking to the university’s past century for inspiration.
“In 1908, as a women’s school, it was originally designed as a public, residential, liberal arts college,” Feaver said. “That design has never changed. Now, nearly 100 years later, USAO remains – distinctively in the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education – a public, residential, liberal arts college. The fact that its mission has never changed makes it – other than the University of Oklahoma – the state school with the oldest original mission in Oklahoma.
“This singular vision of itself, a century old, is more relevant now perhaps than ever before,” Feaver said. “In an enormously complicated world, its complex environment can best be understood when apprehended and analyzed from the perspectives of many different types of information and knowledge, from that of the historian, the sociologist, the economist, the biologist, the mathematician, the literary scribe, the psychologist, the artist, the political scientist, the chemist and more. And this is what we attempt to do here: to fill our graduates with as much information and knowledge from as many academic disciplines as possible.”
With the help of the Oklahoma State Regents of Higher Education, Feaver said USAO is poised for a bright and unique future.
“Thus the State Regents have said, ‘take this special institution along a special path,’” he said. “‘Raise your admission standards to the highest in the state in order to attract Oklahoma’s best and brightest students. Provide them an affordable public option to the high and rising costs of private liberal arts institutions. Keep them in Oklahoma. Keep them from leaving the state by attracting them to high quality options at home.
“‘We will allocate special funds to help you do this,’” Feaver said, quoting the Regents. “‘We will help you recruit and retain new faculty from the best graduate schools from across the nation to come and teach these bright Oklahoma students and those who choose to come from out of state. We will help you drop the faculty-student ratio down to 16:1 in order to maximize teaching and learning effectiveness.’
“This is why we exist,” Feaver said, “in our special way, to meet the needs of the state and its citizens in the provision of a top quality liberal arts experience.”
For this event USAO administrators tackled an overcrowding issue that has plagued commencement events for years: the 850-seat auditorium cannot hold the regular 1,500+ crowd, even with a backup overflow amphitheatre in Davis Hall.
Although plans for a 3,000-seat arena have been developed as part of the campus 25-year masterplan, construction may be years away.
Unpredictable weather conditions make outdoor spring ceremonies uncertain and expensive and don’t address the need for a large venue for winter commencement.
School officials considered closing the ceremony to the general public and offering five tickets to each graduate, allowing them to invite only select friends and family. But in a campus forum led by student government, and through blog sites and email, students asked for other options.
With input from students, faculty, staff and alumni, USAO officials deliberated for weeks before settling on the plan.
The administration found a permanent solution for both spring and winter commencement ceremonies by integrating a high-tech video broadcasting system in two venues – the first university in the state to do so.
By holding the ceremony in both the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium and the USAO Field House, administration separated graduates by degrees, thus splitting the commencement party in half at each venue. Patrons witnessed the entire service at both locations via video projectors feeding live footage of each venue on large screens. Audio fed into each location’s sound system allowed the crowd to hear the addresses given live at the other venue while viewing the events.
Simultaneously, television viewers watched the show live on USAO’s Channel 18 at home.
A crowd of nearly 2,000 packed into both the Auditorium and Field House, with many watching from the Davis Hall amphitheatre for overflow as well. Due to the success of the split-venue telecast and positive feedback from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members, future commencement ceremonies are planned to follow the same protocol.
Paulette Pogue, president of the USAO Alumni Association, presented the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate award to Edmond senior Courtney Foley.
A scholar and an athlete, Foley maintained a 4.0 GPA while playing on the nationally ranked Drover softball team. As a chemistry major, she received recognition by faculty when she recently was named the distinguished graduate for the science and physical education division.
“One of her professors said of her, ‘she will be an outstanding alumna, a credit to the institution and to the selection committee’s decision,’” Pogue said.
Foley is a volunteer for an Oklahoma City hospice. She is a member of the USAO Hypatia Honor Society, Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges and the National Dean’s List. She has been recognized as a scholar-athlete by the NAIA and ESPN The Magazine.
After graduation, Foley plans to attend the OU Health Science Center and work toward her master of health science degree as a physician associate.
The ceremony began with the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” processional, performed by Dr. Stephen Weber, associate professor of music, in the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium. Dr. Ken Bohannon, associate professor of music, sang “I Got Plenty O’Nuttin” by George Gershwin, accompanied by Weber.
Joining Huguenin on the stage in the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium were Dr. Eloy Chavez, dean and director of students and student services, Dr. Darryel Reigh, professor of chemistry, Dr. Mike Mather, professor of biology and Paulette Pogue. In the Field House, special stage guests included Dr. Michael Nealeigh, vice president for university advancement, Dr. J.C. Casey, professor of communication, Julie Bohannon, director of alumni development and Kent Lamar, professor of art.
Bohannon led graduates and guests in singing “The College Hymn,” accompanied by Dr. Dan Hanson, professor of music, in the Field House. Dr. Jan Hanson, professor of music, served as conductor for the traditional hymn.
Dan Hanson performed the recessional, “The Music of the Night,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Members of Alpha Lambda Delta and Hypatia honor societies served as ushers for the event.
A webcast version of the commencement is available for viewing online at www.usao.edu/news.
Feaver issued 98 bachelor of science degrees, 36 bachelor of arts degrees and eight bachelor of fine arts degrees.
Receiving bachelor of science degrees were:
Alex: Lauren Elizabeth Pettit, Karen Zeiset
Amber: Lindsey Paige Monroe (summa cum laude), Leona Marie Richardson
Anadarko: Nathan Richard Bogers, Brandon Scott Bussell, Victoria C. De La Rosa-Feliciano, Donna Marie Jay, Dustin Wayne Wells
Ardmore: Sarah Danielle Chronister, Rex E. Moore
Blanchard: Stacy Marie Colvin, Sara Diane Geaslin,Donna Kay Standridge, Jill Carney Bryant
Broken Arrow: Dawn Nicole Taylor
Chickasha: Marci Ann Austin, Jessica Frances Brown, Megan Jean Edwards, Julie Ann Fowler (summa cum laude), Kurt Edward Jones, Sarah Elizabeth Tabor, Raymond Thomas Thetford Jr., Brittany Danielle Wiley, Gary Lynn Williams, Anna Maria Wooten
Choctaw: Audrey Marie Butler, Tiffany Ann DeLong
Covington: Cody Michael Peacock (cum laude)
Cyril: Keila Lynn Simmons (magna cum laude)
Dibble: Dodge Curtis Roath
Duncan: Jesus Ernesto Castillo, Lacey Donn Graham, Don (J.R.) Duane Hoyt Jr. (summa cum laude), Stephanie Jacobson (magna cum laude), Cierra Brianne Jung
Edmond: Courtney Lee Foley (summa cum laude), Laura Ann Sparks
Elgin: Tanner Lynn Taliaferro
Fletcher: Timothy Michael Comte
Fort Cobb: Sally Rae-Ann Tilley
Granite: Cody Lee Hines
Healdton: Jessica Renee' Darling (cum laude)
Hinton: Lionel Dean Ahdunko
Indiahoma: Kayce Lee Godwin
Lawton: Regina Elizabeth Hatcher
Lexington: Kindra Lianne Gregory
Marlow: Michael James McCormick, Melissa Jo Pryor
Moore: Kelly Elizabeth Criser, Melinda Kaye Forga
Mooreland: Amber Dawn Myers (cum laude)
Mustang: Kristin Michele Vick
Ninnekah: Jacqulyn Kasey Day, Jean Michelle Lane (magna cum laude), Russell Dean Boswell Jr.
Norman: Marilyn Carrillo, Michael Burdett Carpenter, Patrice Lashawn Greer, Amanda Nicole Henderson
Nowata: Blakely Noel Adams (cum laude)
Oklahoma City: Avery Gerard Stevenson, Stephanie Lynne Hey, Thomas John Hubbard, Jamie Kathleen Maples, Sean Avery Neal
Oologah: Benjamin Wayne Bauer (cum laude), Nicole Renee Yager
Rocky: Morgan Lea'Kaye Skelley
Roff: JessieLee Gwen Boss
Roosevelt: Lauren Jill Thurmond
Sterling: Sarah Katrese Van Ess
Tecumseh: Adam Ray Earhart, Trace Ray Larman (magna cum laude), Lauren Elizabeth Wilsie (magna cum laude)
Tulsa: Rose Morton (magna cum laude)
Tuttle: Beverly Ann Dusold (cum laude), Amy Dawn Harwell (magna cum laude), Pamela Perry Roberts, Travis Darrell Simpkins, Ericka Renee Oman, Nick Dale Price
Woodward: Andrew M. Long
OUT OF STATE:
Santa Ana, Calif.: Carol Jean Martinez
Liberal, Kan.: Jennifer Joanne Dixon
New Orleans, La.: Dawanda Shamika Sterling
Bladensburg, Md.: Wayne Thomas Walls
Fernley, Nev.: Devon Kathren Murdock Sexton
Lovington, N.M.: Joshua Brent Hill, Nindi Francesca Espinosa
Staten Island, N.Y.: Stanley Bolden
Ace, Texas: Amanda Evette Cotton
Amarillo, Texas: Brian Andrew Wyatt
Clarendon, Texas: Marcia D. Terry
Fort Worth, Texas: Samuel Warren Hayden
Midland, Texas: Danielle Nicole Goode
McGaheysville, Va.: Jennifer Ann Wright
OUT OF COUNTRY:
Nigeria: Onuwa Whitney Osueke
Receiving bachelor of arts degrees were:
Adams: Laci Reid Bowers
Anadarko: Denise Michelle Castillo, Ruth Diane Chebahtah, Roger Carl Coleman Jr., Morgan Ann Thompson (cum laude), Michael Russell Voyles
Choctaw: Dustin Lynn Morris
Comanche: Laura Marie DeAnn Komula
Duncan: Annetta Joyce Field, Garrett Dale Haviland
Lawton: Miranda Rachelle Russell
Marlow: Ryan Joseph Schneider (cum laude), Michael Christopher Willard (cum laude)
Minco: Daniel Logan Ford
Moore: Scott Sanders
Newcastle: Gary Evans Mabry IV
Noble: Autumn Rain Horn
Norman: Erika Maria Cerda (magna cum laude), Tiffany LaDell Mayes, Margaret Bond Adkins Wilson (cum laude)
Nowata: Bethany Ruth Covey
Pocasset: Kily Dawn Keeling
Ponca City: Erin Siobhan Smith
Purcell: Matthew E. Honeyman
Rush Springs: Ashley D. Johnson
Sapulpa: Lisa Renee Daniel
Tulsa: Meredith Colleen Beard, Jacob Wallace Morehead
Tuttle: Kristi Gail Hendricks, Shelsea Rene' Turner
Yukon: Kyle Thomas Bradburry
OUT OF STATE:
Buckeye, Ariz.: Jessica Rae Hatlestad (magna cum laude)
Jacksonville, Fla.: Julie Anna Jones
Blue Eye, Mo.: Jonathan Robeson Benecke
Frisco, Texas: Angela Kay Jones (magna cum laude)
Nacogdoches, Texas: Jesse R. Roth
Receiving bachelor of fine arts degrees were:
Chickasha: Priscilla Dawn Harris, Amy Catherine Simer
Healdton: Jeannie Shalene Henley (magna cum laude)
Norman: Keturah Jalal Stevens, Julia Dawn Wells (cum laude)
Ponca City: Jonathon Mitchell Fowler
OUT OF STATE:
San Andreas, Calif.: David Allen Fortner
Poplarville, Miss.: Sabrina Faye Myrick (cum laude)