Tim Whyte | ‘Boom!’ Goes Sooner Graduation

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Four years ago, when I took my son to the University of Oklahoma to start his college adventure, we toured the campus. I was awed by the appearance of it — ornate architecture, beautiful landscaping. It has that Major Institution of Higher Learning vibe, in spades. 

One of the stops was the big clock tower outside the library, one of the signature buildings on the OU campus. The tour guide told the newly minted Sooners standing there that they should NOT, under any circumstances, walk through the pillars of the clock tower until they graduate.

There’s a superstition, you see. It says that, if you walk under the clock tower before you graduate, you won’t graduate — at least, not on time.

Hence, after the annual graduation ceremonies, a long line of graduates forms, each waiting to take their turn to finally walk under the clock tower.

A couple of weeks ago, Luc graduated from OU — on time. 

But he hasn’t taken that walk under the clock tower yet. 

That’s because, like basically every other institution in the country, the University of Oklahoma canceled its in-person graduation ceremony.

Welcome to my Coronavirus Pity Party of 2020. Come on in, but keep your distance and wear a mask, of course. And get your tiny violins tuned up.

I know the COVID-19 pandemic has had much greater impacts on many families than it has on mine. We had a brief scare when a relative tested positive for COVID-19, but he’s OK now. Other than that, we’ve been pretty fortunate. My wife and I have both been able to work from home, and other than some shared depression about not being able to do many “fun” things — cabin fever reigns supreme — all in all we’ve weathered it pretty well.

But man. I was SO looking forward to watching my kid graduate. 

Both of our kids chose to go out of state for college, seeking that “college experience.” Our daughter’s freshman year at Washington State was effectively cut short, as she came home to distance-learn once the Pullman campus shut down two months ago. Taking college classes via Zoom just isn’t the same as being there, experiencing new friends, being on your own and living the campus life. 

And, our son’s senior year was effectively cut short, too — at least, thankfully, not before the end of hockey season. Hockey, after all, is what got the boy to think about OU in the first place. It was one of several schools that recruited him out of junior hockey, and he had a couple friends who were already there, so it was a good fit.

Now, he’s a loyal Sooner.

Luc was always a good student, but truth be told, in high school he was so focused on hockey that he didn’t get too excited about high school campus life. That changed for him when he went to Norman, Oklahoma. He was in awe of the place. About halfway through his freshman year, he said to me, “I still catch myself walking around this campus and thinking, ‘I can’t believe I GO here.”

And “go,” he did. He pulled excellent grades, made the dean’s list, played four years of competitive hockey, made all-league in his senior year, and graduated this spring with a double major. He’s found himself academically, grown as a person and made many new lifelong friends as he now prepares to go to law school at Southern Methodist University in the fall. 

Hopefully, in person.

OU produced a pretty slick “video” graduation ceremony, but it’s not the same. The in-person ceremonies have now been rescheduled and scaled down, and they’re set for early-August — so far. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that the rescheduled August ceremonies go off without a COVID-19 hitch.  

Because after four years, I really want to see my son walk under that clock tower.

Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal. His column appears Sundays unless there’s a global pandemic.

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