USAO Holds First Outdoor Commencement in 50 Years

Friday, April 14, 2006


More than 100 graduating students will receive their degrees during an outdoor commencement ceremony at the University of Science and Arts on April 21. At 8 p.m., the university will hold its first outdoor graduation service in nearly 50 years.


The ceremony takes place south of the flag plaza on the oval and will accommodate 1,500 guests. Overflow seating is available in the Davis Hall Amphitheater, where the televised event will be shown on a 12-foot screen. A live broadcast also is scheduled on USAO Channel 18.


Springtime weather may make for a nice service, but school officials moved the ceremony for a more compelling reason. Troutt Hall Main Auditorium, the university’s standard location for commencement ceremonies, is under renovation.


Following an extensive $500,000 facelift, the auditorium will be reopened in August with a new name: Te Ata Memorial Auditorium. Redesigned in green and burgundy with new lighting, seating, paint, flooring, restrooms and sound, the venue’s new name will honor the memory and lifetime achievements of American Indian storyteller Te Ata Fisher (1895-1995).


Graduating in 1919 under the name Mary Thompson, Fisher eventually became an international ambassador for Oklahoma and American Indian culture and history by telling her stories across America and around the world.


In August, the university will host the world premiere of Te Ata, A Play With Music. The $150,000 production tells her story and celebrates her life’s work in bridging cultures.


“Upgrades in the Troutt Hall Auditorium and building the set for the August world premiere give us some very practical reasons for moving the graduation ceremony,” said Dr. Sandy Huguenin. As vice president of academic affairs, Huguenin will present the graduating class at the ceremony.


“Nevertheless, I’m excited by the opportunities it presents,” he said. “An outdoor commencement is very fitting for a small liberal arts college and there was a long historical tradition of outdoor ceremonies at the Oklahoma College for Women, so it should be a fun and nostalgic event.”


The first outdoor commencement on record at OCW was in 1951, when Dr. George Lynn Cross, famed president of the University of Oklahoma, presented the commencement address on the lawn of the new Nash Library. The last remembered by alumni was in 1959.


The spring commencement will feature a special tribute to student achievement led by USAO President John Feaver.

Special music for the evening includes “For Good” by Stephen Schwartz, sung by graduating music seniors Rachael (Bourn) Sweeden of Oklahoma City and Shannan Osborn of Minco, with accompaniment by music senior Rhenada Finch of Lindsay.


The commencement is open to the public. Limited outdoor seating is available. In case of inclement weather, the fieldhouse will serve as an alternate site.