Ferguson Shares ‘Sense of Place’ At USAO Spring Commencement

Ferguson Shares ‘Sense of Place’ At USAO Spring Commencement

Comparing shared life stories and giving meaningful definition to “place,” Dr. Vicki Ferguson encouraged graduates that they are starting on a good foundation with a liberal arts degree during the spring commencement ceremony at the University of Science and Arts. 

An education faculty member for most of 28 years, Fergusonaddressed 134 graduating seniors and their families at the ceremony April 23. She serves several roles as professor, director of teacher education and chair of the Division of Education and Speech-Language Pathology.

More than 1,500 people attended Friday night’s commencement in two ceremonies at the college – the third time a two-ceremony schedule has been used to alleviate overcrowding in Te Ata Memorial Auditorium.

"When I was approached with the awesome request to speak to you, my first reaction was probably not much different than yours when you came to the realization that you were actually going to graduate from college – my reaction: panic," Ferguson said.

"I began thinking about 'stories:' in particular, your story and my story.  We are at different 'places' in our stories, but our stories have many similarities.  My story started before yours and, yet when our stories are complete, they may not be much different in length.  Since my academic preparation was primarily in mathematics, I picture our stories as parallel truncated number lines that currently coincide at this place.

"Place is a word that communicates many different things.  Steven Pinker, a recent campus speaker in this very auditorium, inspired me to consider how words communicate and this word 'place' has special significance tonight.

"Place can be a physical location. Place can signify an event. Place can indicate a time in your life.


One of the most decorated graduates to ever walk the stage, Jacqueline (J.C.) Benda of Union City received the USAO Alumni Distinguished Graduate Award during Friday night’s commencement.  Benda graduated with a 4.0 GPA in biology/pre-med, while serving a long list of charities and several honor societies.  Presenting her the award is Alumni President Judy Ford of Shawnee.


"Although some of you in this spring graduating class reached this place in your life after previous work experiences, for most of you this 'place' is the place in your life that marks your crossing into expectations of adult life, of taking on the role of a productive citizen at a unique time in history," she said.

Ferguson shared how the places in her life compared to the places in the graduates’ lives and a liberal arts education.

"It took me a while to be able to recognize the answer to the question – what good is a liberal arts education?  Was it a fluke that a kid growing up in Florida became a math major in Georgia, discovered a love of teaching math in Texas, and eventually became a director of teacher education in Oklahoma, or could my liberal arts education somehow have played a part?


"You will surely be quicker than I at answering that liberal arts question.  I predict you will discover that you see the world differently than many other people around you.  You may realize that you see the underlying question/solution in an important issue while others hone in on superficial aspects, that you see multiple dimensions while others see only the immediate problem.


Webcast of the 6 p.m. Ceremony

Webcast of the 8 p.m. Ceremony

"You may realize that you are not afraid to face new tasks or tackle a job that did not previously exist.  You may realize that you have developed strategies for analyzing and solving problems that come your way rather than quitting before a solution is found.  You may realize that opening your mind to new ideas, new challenges and novel solutions was an approach to life that you learned while at USAO. 

"All of you may realize that this place where you are tonight was, in fact, a really good place to be.  So, as your story continues, in the words of the inimitable Dr. Seuss, 'Oh, the places you’ll go.'"

Ferguson received her doctoral degree in math education from the University of Oklahoma in 1993, a master's degree in mathematics from the University of Texas in 1973 and a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Agnes Scott College in 1971.

She has been a full-time member of the USAO faculty since 1988. She also was an instructor in the mathematics department at USAO from 1975-80 and an adjunct faculty member in the Division of Mathematics and Division of Education from 1987-88

Local businessman and USAO supporter Lonnie Jourdan received an honorary bachelor of liberal arts degree during the ceremony. Jourdan has been a friend to the university for nearly 20 years, giving most generously to scholarships, but also to capital projects like the Greek Theater and Owens Flag Plaza.  His leadership gift to restore the Home of the President in 2007 caused the USAO Board of Regents to rename the historic 1919 structure “The Jourdan House” in his honor.


A standing ovation greets benefactor Lonnie Jourdan during Friday night’s commencement ceremonies at USAO.  Jourdan received the first-ever Honorary Bachelor of Liberal Arts Degree for his leadership to the USAO Foundation, his dedication to service, and his generosity to students through scholarships. From left are USAO President John Feaver, commencement speaker Dr. Vicki Ferguson and Jourdan.


Presiding over the ceremony was Dr. John Feaver, president of the college. “With your degree and the abilities that the degree represents, I urge you to improve the quality of life of the people in your community. I urge you to improve the lives of those in the many communities you will encounter in your journey.”

Shawnee resident Judy Ford, president of the USAO Alumni Association, presented the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate Award to Union City native Jacqueline (J.C.) Benda.

Benda graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology/pre-med with a 4.0 grade point average. She plans to enlist in the Air Force and study medicine at the OU College of Medicine.

She was a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, the Beta Beta Beta Honor Society, the Hypatia Honor Society and was named to Who's Who Among American College Students.

Benda also was a member of the USAO Ambassadors, the Biology and Associated Sciences Club, Colleges Against Cancer, the President's Leadership Council, the Student Activities Board, the Volunteer Action Council and the Women in Technology and Science group. She played a year of varsity basketball at USAO and volunteered for a list of charities.

Benda received the George Austin Award for Campus Leadership, was a George and Donna Nigh Scholar and has participated in several marathons.

In her recommendation, Dr. Jeannette Loutsch said, "She is a mature young woman with strong morals, unbound enthusiasm, unlimited dedication to USAO and a delight to be around." Loutsch is an assistant professor of biology.

Six seniors received outstanding graduate awards from the USAO Faculty Association for academic divisions.

Wetumka English major Kasey Sams received distinction from the Division of Arts and Humanities. Yukon psychology major Cori Marsala-Quintero was named the outstanding graduate for the Division of Business and Social Science. Jessika Saltos, a speech language major from Moore, and Kelly Shewmaker, an elementary education major from Newcastle, were distinguished by the Division of Education and Speech Language Pathology. J.C. Benda, a biology/pre-med major from Union City, and Corey Coles, a biology major from Oklahoma City, were named the outstanding graduates for the Division of Science and Physical Education.

The evening ceremony began with the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” processional performed by Dr. Stephen Weber, associate professor of music. Graduating music major Colette Schaffer of Lindsay performed "The Prayer" written by Caroline Sager and David Foster.

Weber, Dr. Ken Bohannon, associate professor of music, and Dr. Jan Hanson, professor of music, led graduates and guests in singing “The College Hymn.” Dr. Dan Hanson, professor of music, performed the recessional, “You'll Be in My Heart” by Phil Collins.

Copies of the ceremony will be available on DVD for $15 plus tax in the USAO Media and Community Relations office or by phone at 405-574-1318.

Feaver issued 89 bachelor of science degrees, 39 bachelor of arts degrees and six bachelor of fine arts degrees.


Receiving bachelor of fine arts degrees were:

Blanchard --Shannon Rene' Moon           

Chickasha --Robert Allen Cole, Helen Elizabeth Shafer, Kristen Claire Williams, Ashley Danielle Young

Oklahoma City --Emily J. McLennan


Receiving bachelor of science degrees were:

Alex-- Jessica J. Davenport                       

Altus-- Lupita Adali Moreno, Tiffany Mae Scholl

Anadarko-- Tracy Pewo, Shara Lee Sage

Ardmore-- Joshua Kyle Luttrall                       

Blanchard-- Jessica Danielle Clark, Ashley Dawn Clement, Kayla Raechelle Kerbo, Tara Jean Zindel                       

Bristow-- Felicia Jo Gourley                       

Cashion-- Skyler Stephen Foster                       

Chickasha-- Derek Reed Allen, Buddy Jacob Bedoka, Cacy Jade Bedoka, Alicia Dawn Cave, Juan Antonio Charqueno, Kelly Ann Cosart, Donna Jo Davidson, Frances Ann Dunkin, Laurissa L-D Eliason, Shelby Lea Grubb, Jessie Elizabeth Harris, Natalie Anne Holland, Laura Elizabeth Mitchell, Joshua James Moore, Nathan John Pennypacker, Kaycie Christine Ragsdale, Brooks Wade Robbins, Alvar Rodriguez, Boyd Lynn Salsbury, Lacey C. Shook, Sarah Kathryn Specht, Timithy Don Thomas             

Collinsville-- Hillary Danielle Brown                       

Comanche-- Gina Leann Pollock                       

Cushing-- Charitie Dione Lewis                       

Cyril-- Thomas Houston Lau                       

Del City-- Aiden Lane Ashmore                       

Duncan-- Tiffany Ann Gann                       

Elmore City-- Jillian Alexandra Caldwell                       

Frederick-- Morgan Beth Martin, Brittany Diane Thomas                       

Hobart-- Ashley Brooke Smith           

Jones-- Morgan Elizabeth Lane                       

Lawton-- John Pleas Houston                       

Lexington-- Sara Diane Glenn                       

Lindsay-- Kimberly Gail Williams                       

Marlow-- Heather Marie Broyles, Ashley Dawn Davis                        

Moore-- Jessika Dara Saltos                       

Mt. View-- Lindsey Nichole Bagley                       

Mustang-- Sydnay Katherine Dick, Ryan Lynn Romasz                       

Newcastle-- Margaret Anne McUsic, Kelly Gene Shewmaker                       

Ninnekah-- Starling Brice Rhymes                       

Norman-- Shireen Michelle Abbaszadeh, Connie Lamar Hamilton, Carrie Elizabeth Smyser,  Krystle Dawn Suazo                       

Oklahoma City-- Valerie Elizabeth Brooks, Corey Jamaal Coles, Heather Richelle Hogan, Mary C. Rice, Miranda Sue Schallert, Roseanne Renae Truelove, Joshua Earl Turnage                       

Oologah-- Zachariah Lee Bauer                       

Purcell-- Rebekah Marie Couch, Rebecca Jean Moore                       

Rush Springs-- Ryan Dawn McKay                       

Shawnee-- Shea Anthony Hall                       

Tuttle-- Michelle Nicole Mason, Lindy J. Reynolds, Tiffany Dianne Rivers                       

Verden-- Jessica Amanda Price                       

Yukon-- Jacqueline Celeste Benda, Cori Ann Marsala-Quintero, Leah Ja-el Thompson


Out of State

Fayetteville, Arkansas-- Ana Maria Sheeler           

Mt. Prospect, Illinois --Kenneth R. Wieda           

Summerfield, North Carolina --Madison Lynn Thoma           

Wichita Falls, Texas-- Ruben Jeremy Nieto


Out of Country

Langley, Canada BC-- Lucas Stewart Krobath           

Puerto Cabello, Venezuela-- Eilyn Yanilca Flores

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil --Luanna Jose'

Botucatu, Brazil-- Juliana Marchis Leite

Valencia, Venezuela-- Ivaney Patricia Marquez


Receiving bachelor of arts degrees were

Altus-- Tiffany Mae Scholl                                               

Amber-- Sachelle Elizabeth Story

Anadarko-- Constance Bread, Maria del Socorro Ramos-Morales

Blackwell-- Christopher Todd Stanford

Broken Arrow-- Kate A. McGee

Cement-- Vannessa Shawnae Pierce

Chickasha-- Michelle Ellen Bauer, Brett Alan Beery, Amy Lanelle Chaney, Sherrie Lanette Evans, Josh Wayne Finch, JJ William Francais, Lara Kathleen Jernigan, Sterling Edward Jones, Dustin Eugene Kennell, Lianna Kay Larabee, Ricardo Marson Rosa Moreira, Dione Shontia Oballa, Jerry Dean Richards, Brooks Wade Robbins, Shannon L. Robertson, Sandra Lynn Wilmoth

Davis-- Candace Nicole Shanholtzer

Edmond-- Jared Daniel Minson

Lindsay-- Micah Dannielle Mize, Colette Petrice Schaffer

Minco-- Rani DeJohn Eisenhour, Kassandra Leigh Prather

Ninnekah-- Chancey Ashford Witt

Oklahoma City-- Melissa Christina Losada, Lisa Danielle Prather

Rush Springs-- Samantha Jo Owen

Tuttle-- Brandon Wayne Blizzard, Abigail Karen Hardesty

Wetumka-- Kasey Mechelle Sams

Yukon-- Cynthia DeNeece Bostic, Amanda Leigh Hyam  


Out of State

Mineral Wells, Texas --Ashley Nicole Jones

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