Ever wonder just how many fireworks it takes to light up the night sky after OU’s annual commencement ceremony? It’s a lot. Check out the number of big bangs, as well as other interesting facts about the history of Sooner commencement exercises.
April 22, 2016
April 22, 2016
April 20, 2016
You have an aspiration to start your own non-profit organization. Tell us what that looks like.
I think there is work that we can do on a local level to develop ambitious students from high schools that are socioeconomically disadvantaged to not only get to college, but to be well-rounded and succeed when they get there. Federal programs that are designed to assist individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in obtaining opportunities for higher education are facing incredible budget cuts. Ideally, this non-profit organization would focus on making higher education more accessible for these students by providing culturally relevant, free-of-cost academic and mentoring resources over the span of three years beginning in their ninth grade academic year. The goal is to equip students with the skills necessary to succeed beyond college admission in order to reduce dropout rates, and address the learning gap that frequently lands students from marginalized backgrounds in remedial college courses.
You are from Oklahoma City. Why did you choose OU?
I saw people that looked like me on staff. Paola Lopez, then a representative for OU Diversity Enrichment Programs, visited Santa Fe South and shared her personal journey to college with a group relatively disinterested high school students. I was among them. She was the first person to present college as a feasible option for me, and not only walked me through the application and financial aid process, but convinced me that there was a team of people rooting for me at OU.
What are you most excited about your upcoming move to Philadelphia?
Cheesesteaks, hoagies, soft pretzels & wooder ice! Haha. Truthfully, the possibilities to work with a multitude of high schools that serve the kind of students I want to devote my life work to.
What will you miss most about Norman?
My mentors and the pace of life. Both the OU and the local community, are so for you. They spend time building you up in a number of diverse ways, and I am grateful to have spent the last four years in this space.
What was the most interesting thing you got to do when serving as the Multicultural Greek Council President?
We adopted CASP, a local non-profit organization, and collected books for their literacy programs and executed a fall festival for their elementary-aged students. This was the first time the council did something like this. It was exceptionally inspiring to see the impact of this school-community partnership, and what it meant for their organization to develop a relationship with the multicultural community at OU.
January 25, 2016
You took a significant leadership role on campus, both on the field and off, this year. What was that experience like and what have you learned?
My leadership experiences over the past year and beyond have absolutely transformed my perspective and molded me into the man I am today. My leadership experiences utterly transcend my athletic exploits, which have been exhilarating and plentiful. I have participated in a variety of arenas, from on-field leadership of a team that was counted out from the start, to representing student-athletes everywhere on a national stage at the NCAA Convention, to working at different levels of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee to improve the student-athlete experience, to being blessed with the opportunity to lead the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and share my faith around the state. From each of these experiences, I learned something different. Most importantly, I learned to value people and their diverse perspectives. People are what make it worth it.
Videos of coaches dancing after big wins became popular this season. In a dance-off between Coach Stoops and Baker Mayfield, presumably the team’s top dancer, who would win and why?
This is a trick question. Most people would immediately say Baker, and justifiably so. But to fully understand the complexity of the question, one must have an intricate knowledge of dance battle scoring procedures. Most dance battles, at least the ones in our lockerroom, are determined by crowd reaction. This is what gives Coach Stoops a chance. Great things are expected of Baker, which means that it will much harder for him to win a crowd reaction because of his reputed dancing prowess. Coach Stoops, on the other hand, doesn’t have to do much. Anything that he does that even resembles a dance move will be met with a roar. If he even attempts to Dab or hit the Whip, it’s game over. For that reason, I gotta go with Big Game Bob.
Did you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions?
I wouldn’t exactly call it a ritual, but Trevor Knight and I meet in the southeast corner of the endzone at the same point of every pregame. We did this every game for four years. It will be one of my greatest memories years from now. Additionally, this past year the entire team brought it up shortly before it was time to take the field and jumped around to the Meek Mill song “Dreams and Nightmares.” It seems like such a silly thing, but every time I hear that song from now on, I will think about those pregame hype sessions.
Your teammates nicknamed you “The Honorable Ty Darlington” and “Senator.” What’s up with that?
Coach Riley first dubbed me “Senator Darlington” or “The Good Senator.” At the time, I had just returned from a trip to Washington D.C. representing Big 12 student-athletes at the NCAA Convention and was set to return to D.C. in April for a forum on the State of College Athletics. So from there on, the politician references have been plenty and often. As a disclaimer, I would like to say that I have no intention of becoming an actual politician.
What’s next for Ty Darlington?
In my immediate future, I will be training for the NFL draft while completing my Master’s degree here in Norman. It’s been a dream to play in the NFL, so I will pursue that as long as I can. Whenever my playing career is over, I intend to pursue a career as a college football coach. At some point, I would be interested in transitioning into the administrative side of things, but my love for the game and my desire to form personal relationships with players has directed me towards coaching for now.
January 4, 2016
How many bow ties do you have and how did this fetish start?
I have around 75 bow ties. I started wearing them in 1992 and came to love their timeless simplicity.
You’re well-known on the sidelines at OU football games. Ever TiVo yourself and go back and watch?
My friends treat me like Waldo from “Where’s Waldo.” I get texts when I make an appearance on TV. I might have gone back and watched a couple of times!
What was like being a Ruf-Nek?
I loved being a RUF/NEK. It was special being a part of OU tradition. The relationships and memories will always be with me.
You’ve devoted your whole career to OU. What’s your secret to coming into work motivated each day?
I love my job! I consider myself lucky to work at OU. I am blessed to work alongside our students and with the best staff in the country. OU is a special place.
What’s the best thing about being around OU students everyday?
Working with OU students on a daily basis keeps me feeling young. Their youthful energy is contagious. They challenge me each and every day to be a better person.
December 1, 2015
Etched above the door of the beautiful building at the corner of Lindsay and Jenkins streets in Norman is the name Headington Hall. The University of Oklahoma residence hall is a familiar site some three years after it opened. In those three years, it’s taken on another name that accounts for the spirit of the building that has come to match its regal appearance. Welcome to DampHousse.
Housing both student-athletes, who previously lived across Lindsay in older “athletic housing” now banned by the NCAA, as well as students not associated with a sports program, Headington Hall is a majestic building inside and out, a first-choice destination of students living on campus. However, the 380 students who call the building home each year soon find out the best part of Headington is not its finer apportionments, but rather the love and care that emanates from a family apartment tucked away on its first floor.
The apartment is home to Dean Kelly Damphousse and his wife, Beth. It’s a part-time hideaway for one daughter, Kristen, an OU senior, and “back home” for a second, Kayleigh, a graduate student at the University of Kansas. The Damphousses call Headington home as part of the university’s Faculty-In-Residence program, under which each residence hall is called home by a faculty member, or members, and their family. Kelly serves as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, while Beth is the event coordinator and a recruiter for OU’s office of Admissions and Recruitment. They both serve equally as “parents” to those living in DampHousse.
As such, they have counseled students, picked up prescriptions at two in the morning, sat on their couch and cried with students after the death of a grandparent and most likely hung as many lights and decorated as many Christmas trees as anyone on campus.
“This matches where we are,” Kelly says in explaining the couple’s decision to join the FIR program. “Beth and I are fully-vested in the university. We’re all in for OU and this allows us to be engaged in that way.”
Not long after asking the obvious question, “Why would do you this?,” it becomes obvious the Damphousses don’t just “do this.” They wouldn’t be able to not do it. It’s in the fabric of who they are. While Kelly was earning a doctoral degree at Texas A&M University, the Damphousses started a tradition of having Waffle Night every Sunday night with fellow students and just about anyone who smelled waffle batter hitting griddle in the vicinity of their home. That tradition morphed into an open door life at their Moore home while Kayleigh and Kristen were growing up, and it further morphed into Late Night Breakfast twice a month at Headington.
“We have kids lined down the hallways in their PJs and house shoes,” Beth explains about Late Night. “Those kinds of things we’ve always done, we continue here.”
Among those things they’ve always done is loved and cared for young people. In addition to his duties as dean, Kelly teaches courses in Arts and Sciences and serves as the current OU-Big 12 Faculty Athletic Representative, a position that has given him a new appreciation for the life of a student-athlete.
“I get to see what their lives are really like,” he reflects. “I get to see the rowing team get up at five in the morning, get on the bus and be on the river by 6 am; what it’s like to be a student athlete rolling in here at two in the morning after a road trip and having to be up for an 8 am class. I see how difficult that life is to balance.”
He also sees the result the athletics department and university has placed on success in the classroom, as well as in competition. For the past seven semesters, the overall grade point average of student-athletes has been above 3.0. Some programs boast 100 percent graduation rates.
Whether an athlete or not, Damphousse finds the students in Headington, and across campus, impressive on many levels.
“The first thing I’ve noticed is our students are brilliant,” the dean says. “I’m convinced I could not be a freshman here at OU. I could not have gotten in here with my high school record. I’m just amazed with the high quality of academic preparation of our students.
“More than that, I think our students seem to be much more selfless. They all want to be inspired by something. They want to be connected to a cause bigger than themselves.”
So do the Damphousses. Both relish in the opportunities to serve students. Beth remembers receiving a call from the father of a student from Kansas City who was a freshman at the time. He was concerned his daughter was struggling a bit with the transition to college life. Beth and Kelly visited with the young student, provided guidance and helped her through that tough first year. Now a flourishing junior, it was to Beth she turned after the death of her grandfather this past spring, asking if she could just come over to the Damphousse apartment and wrestle with her loss.
“She said it was the closest thing to home,” Beth remembers. “She came and hung out for the day. We ate lunch together, grieved together, made sure her classes were taken care of until she was able to get home.”
Known affectionately Dr. D and Mom Beth, the Damphousses have found caring and compassion is a circular proposition. Since their daughter Kayleigh moved to Lawrence to pursue her graduate studies, she has been shown the same hospitality by the very family of that young lady who would find solace on the Damphousses’ sofa.
“They’ve turned around and given our daughter a home away from home,” Beth explains. “We tell the kids we want to pay it forward with what we’re doing. We’re doing this for that reason. Because somewhere along the way people have helped us. They’ve molded and shaped our lives.”
Ask either Damphousse and they’ll both say they themselves are the real benefactors of living in Headington Hall. Most of the time what they gain is not measured practically. At other times, it’s very practical. Kelly is quick to point out being a FIR has made him better as a dean, professor and mentor. Case in point. Living with 380 college students allows for the opportunity to reacquaint one’s self with the early morning struggle of leaving bed. Having witnessed this first hand, and having recalled his own struggles in the morning as a college student, an initiative was begun to cut back on the number of freshman composition and math classes scheduled for early morning bells.
“Hearing their stories reminded me of the difficulty of getting up for early morning classes,” Kelly explains. “There’s a lot of research that backs this up. Students struggle with early morning classes and attendance. A lot of universities are considering the same types of limits. Living here helped me see that in a manner I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
While a reduction in early morning classes may be justified, one area in which Kelly says he doesn’t favor lessening the burden, so to speak, on students is personal responsibility. It is, he believes, the most consistent advice he dispenses.
“I think over time it’s really easy for a student to abdicate responsibility for their own lives to someone else, an adviser, a parent,” he explains. “The most common advice I give students is how to take care of things themselves. I’m trying to give ownership back to the student. I think that’s what I’m most proud of is to be able to encourage students to take ownership and responsibility for the own lives, not to defer to someone else.”
For Beth, the growth that comes from such advice, and from all the couple does for students, is satisfaction itself.
“It’s neat to see how these kids grow up and mature,” she says. “It’s fun for me to have a knock on the door and open it and see a student from two years ago that wants to catch up and tell us what’s going on in their lives.”
While most FIR appointments are for three years, athletics appointments differ. The prior faculty member living in a residence hall with student-athletes stayed 13 years. The Damphousses admit they wouldn’t mind doing the same.
“We’ll be here until they’re ready to move us out,” Beth expects. “or until they drag us out kicking and screaming. This is the perfect fit for us at this stage in our lives.”
And, one can be assured, the perfect fit for their 380 DampHousse “kids.”
December 1, 2015
Describe a day in your life at Dateline.
I am on the Day of Air team at Dateline. So on a typical day I am in the edit room with my team putting together the shows for the week. We take all the elements of the show and “build” them together and deliver it to the network. We are the last “eyes” before it goes to air. On certain days I go on location with our anchor Lester Holt to tape his portions of each show.
Favorite spot to hang out in New York?
Oh this is a hard one; there are so many great places in New York to hang out. I love my local park, Madison Square Park. It is great for people and dog watching. One of my other favorite places is the McKittrick hotel. It is like a three in one place of entertainment. They have the interactive play “Sleep No More”, a restaurant/bar with a band and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. And lastly a rooftop bar. It literally has everything.
You’d never guess this about Lester Holt!
Well I am sure you can see he’s one of the kindest men around. Lester is actually a very good bass player. He got to sit in with the Roots on Jimmy Fallon one time.
Place on campus you miss the most?
Is it cliché to say Memorial Field? I have so many memories watching OU Football. Another place I miss a lot is the Kappa Kappa Gamma house. I had such a good time living there and hanging out with all my friends.
What super power would you like to have?
Teleportation! It would make coming back to Oklahoma to visit family and friends so much easier.
October 21, 2015
OU graduate Jessica Summers ‘ 05, has found a home courtside with the Oklahoma City Thunder. What about wearing orange?
Who’s your favorite Thunder player?
Well of course I love every single one of them and the difference they make on the court and in the community. I couldn’t be more proud that they represent Oklahoma. If I had to pick I would probably say Russell Westbrook because I wish I had that amazing athletic ability and tenacity!
Where was your go-to restaurant in college?
Hands down Sooner Dairy! I’m a huge cheeseburger lover and made sure to get a milkshake and cheeseburger there often. In fact I try to stop there any time I’m in Norman. Some of my best memories are going there with coworkers when I worked at OU and meeting the late Bob Barry, Sr. there.
What was it like to have to add orange to your wardrobe in light of the fact it’s one of the Thunder colors?
Haha well I always bleed Crimson and Cream but I love adding the sunset color to my wardrobe. It’s great because the whole state loves the Thunder colors and it’s something that everybody is unified on so I feel lucky that I can use multiple colors to display my pride for our state and my university.
What does it mean to you to be an alum from OU?
I’m so proud to have a degree from the University of Oklahoma. Most people that know me know the sense of pride I have for my alma mater as I never let them forget how wonderful OU is. It amazes me to see the caliber of graduates OU churns out every single year. I’m proud to share the Sooner bond with so many around the state and it is definitely something I’m not shy about!
Did you have a certain professor or mentor from your time in college that influenced you?
While I had wonderful professors all throughout college I also spent all 4 years of college working in the Athletics Media Relations office as a student assistant and I feel like that is where I grew the most. Current Senior Associate Athletics Director Kenny Mossman was my boss at the time and he taught me so much about being a professional, a great leader and balancing priorities. I still reach out to him from time to time as I will always consider him a mentor and treasure everything he taught me about life as well as working in athletics. OU is lucky to have him!
August 31, 2015
For Madison Ward, time is always on her mind. A redshirt junior and on the OU volleyball team, she lives in increments. Practice time. Match time. Class time. Time for interviews and appearances. Study time. And precious little down time.
But for Ward, the time that matters most is more profound. It’s the time we cannot measure. The time we know not when it ends. It’s that time that drives her. On the court and off.
“Everyone has a number. Our time is so short and so limited,” she explains thoughtfully. “I want to get the most out of what I have and I want to encourage other people to get the most out of what they have and do things that matter and do things they love.”
For the 24 hours she gets to experience each day, Ward is managing to tend to an All-Big 12 volleyball career with the Sooners, a budding music career, a start-up company and an apparel line aimed at aiding young kids who depend on aid for the essentials most of us take for granted.
This past summer a video of Ward’s singing in a campus cafeteria caught internet fire and she found herself in a viral state of being. It seemed everyone caught a glimpse of Ward’s soulful performance, including music and sports figures from around the country. It’s a talent, much like volleyball, that has been honed from a young age.
“It started actually when I was really young. My mom played the piano in a church we all went to,” Ward recalls. “A lot of the time, she’d be practicing at home and I’d just be around her. I’d be around the piano and she’d go and do something and I’d try to pick up what she played. That started when I was very young; I could barely reach the keys type thing.”
Like her love of sports, music grew into a passion. With no formal training, she took on cords and harmony just as she did with kills, blocks and digs. Tenaciously.
“I’m really a super-perfectionist with lots of things I do,” she admits.” It’s something I’ve had to work on, being so hard on myself. I want to be the best. That goes hand-in-hand with music too. If I can’t figure something out on the guitar, I’m going to work and work at it until I know how to do it. Same with piano and drums right now and definitely the same with volleyball right now.”
Oh yes, the same with volleyball. Last season, Ward was a unanimous All-Big 12 selection as a redshirt sophomore. A two-time All-Big 12 Player of the week, she finished the year with a team second total of 296 kills, including 177 during her last 13 starts of the year. Add to that 234 digs, third highest for the Sooners, and eight double-doubles in 96 sets on the year and that perfectionist attitude is believable.
And while hours of practice in McCasland Field House have aided those numbers, Ward says time with her guitar has also helped.
“If I am having a hard time trying to figure out something on the volleyball court and just can’t quite get it and just need a break, I can get into the music zone,” she says. “It’s a big relaxation for me and I can take my mind off things and occupy my mind a different way.
“It’s been really helpful. After a bad game, if I haven’t performed like I think I should have, instead of beating myself up about it, I can go home and work on a few different instruments that I love or keep writing.”
Those different instruments still include the keys she first caressed while following mom around the house, as well as the drums. Ward also writes original music.
Her latest adventure has taken her into the world of fashion, where she developing an apparel line, that will benefit a parent company she owns that she will use following here OU career to benefit children from low-income households.
“Really it’s about the concept of time on earth being limited and wanting to get the most out of it; doing things that have eternal value,” is how Ward frames the company’s vision. “That’s really the driving force behind it.”
And using that force to provide for those for whom provisions are precious few.
“It comes down to me wanting to provide “necessity bundles” for those children,” she quietly declares. Simple things such as T-shirts, socks and shoe laces.
Necessity. Ward would say that’s where music falls in her life, in that blur between what one wants to do, has time to accomplish and can’t live without.
“It’s my heart,” she says. “I don’t really know how else to put that. Without it I don’t know where I’d be. With tough times, things that have happened in my own life, it’s helped me. Music helps a lot of people.
“Whatever you’re going through you can find a song or a genre you like and snap out of it.”
Beginning her fourth year on the Norman campus, Ward says what she has experienced has an overwhelming positive feel, volleyball being the catalyst.
“It’s surpassed everything I thought it would be,” Ward says on being a Sooner. “I have such a great team to be around, such good friends. I have such good people on the support staff around me at all times. I have mentors I speak too regularly. It’s been unreal being here. It’s changed my life.”
Asked if there was one greatest moment wrapped within many of the great ones, Ward believes it would be hard to pick just a moment in, you know, time.
“There have been a lot of great things,” she reflects with a satisfied tone. “I don’t know if there’s been a single best thing. I think if there is, it’s been my own growth as an individual. Learning from the people I’ve been around and all the great things we have here at OU. That’s been the best thing that’s happened to me.”
Pretty good time it sounds like.
August 31, 2015
When April and Lili Casas were born, it was quite a surprise for their parents, Manuel and Martha Casas. Ultrasounds, showing a healthy baby boy turned into two healthy baby girls. The girls, born and raised in Clinton, OK., and now juniors at the University of Oklahoma, recall being told everyone in the delivery room was quiet surprised, to the point dad passed out. Only Manuel could say for sure, but part of what might have dropped him to the floor may have been the thought of having two children in college together, something both April and Lily understand.
“Being twins, it’s harder on our parents,” Lily acknowledges. “We’re in college at the same time. It’s double the payment for everything.”
That means two sets of books, two tuition payments, twice the living arrangements and…well, you get the point. That’s why the Casas family is so grateful the twins are recipients of scholarships. The latest award they received came from the OU Club of Clinton, which awarded each of the Casas girls scholarship funds for this school year. The awards are part of the annual effort by OU Alumni clubs to fund scholarships for students in a clubs’ geographical areas. This year, clubs will fund more than $700,000 in scholarships.
To understand just how much the scholarships mean, consider that in the case of April and Lily, scholarship money is funding two first-generation college students, both of whom plan careers in the medical fields; April as an eye doctor and Lily as an orthopedic surgeon. The girls are both majoring in biology, Lily on a pre-med track and April with a Spanish minor. Both have their own deep appreciation for having received scholarships, especially those funded by the community in which they grew up.
“I think it’s nice,” April notes. “This past semester, I made the Dean’s Honor roll. Dr. Floyd Simon (a Clinton dentist and longtime OU supporter) knows us and he went up to my mom and gave her a hug and told her he had seen we were doing well and that he was proud of us. It’s nice to know they are taking the time to really know how we’re doing. They put a face to a name.”
The attraction to OU for both April and Lily was two-fold. Both expressed an interest in coming to Norman because it was far enough away from their hometown to force them to grow as individuals and close enough to to head home to see mom and dad. And, for Lily, another scholarship played a factor. She earned one of OU’s Distinguished Scholar awards, a four-year renewable scholarship based on academic and ACT performance coming out of high school. The pair found coming to Norman and beginning their university careers a smooth transition, living together in OU’s residence halls as freshman and continuing to live together now.
“It’s fun that we get to share the same friends,” Lily says. “When we lived in the dorms, we had all the same hall mates and we were friends with everyone. It’s pretty cool. This semester we’re taking two classes together so we get to go to class together, study together.”
“It’s a built in best friend,” April adds.
So, with classes together and the same circle of friends, do the pair suffer from the dreaded twin rivalry? Not so much.
“We’re not into the comparing,” April is quick to say. “We get enough of that from everyone else.”
While academics takes up a majority of their time, both the Casas girls have found time for activities on campus. Both served as members of OU’s Sooner Scouts program, helping in recruiting potential OU students from western Oklahoma by sharing their own experiences on the Norman campus. Lily is active in the OU Pre-Med Club, while April is in Spanish Club and a member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Those activities, and the knowledge their educations are receiving the funding support they need, have left April and Lili with a deep appreciation of their OU experience.
“We have friends at other universities and they aren’t having the same experience we’re having here,” Lily reflects. “I’m really glad we’re here. Without the scholarships, we wouldn’t be here. We’ve been able to make it. We’ve been able to experience college life.”
“I want to be able to give back, as the people in Clinton have given to us,” April concludes.