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May 10, 2013

1958 OU graduate finally attends commencement ceremony

NORMAN — If it hadn’t been for the IBM 650 Computer System, Harold Newland wouldn’t be at Owen Field today.

Back in 1958, Newland earned his accounting degree from the University of Oklahoma after the fall semester. There wasn’t a graduation ceremony until the spring.

Didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.

Newland took a job with a utility company in Beaumont, Texas, after graduation. Getting a weekend off to return to Norman for graduation wasn’t an issue when he took the job.

However, that May, the company started installing that computer system.

“They couldn’t give anybody any time off,” said Newman, now 81.

He’s had the degree. Business wise, it didn’t matter.

However, the man who came to OU from Blackwell in 1954 and worked his way through performing any task the athletic department could think up for four years still wanted to walk across that stage at the graduation ceremony.

Newman finally will tonight when he participates in OU’s commencement ceremony.

His inclusion was set up by his son, Rory. He took matters into his own hands and secretly made arrangements for his father to take part in OU’s 121st commencement tonight.

He’d thought about doing it for years and mentioned it many times to his family. The opportunity never came up. Newland left that utility company for a 30-year stint in the Navy. He was never in a position to make it back to Norman at the right time.

“It was just inaction on my part after I retired and came back here,” Newman said.

“Then my son went and did this, and he didn’t tell me about it until he had everything set up. It was a great surprise for me.”

A lot has changed since Newman first thought about attending the ceremony. Owen Field was a 55,000 seat stadium when he did everything from painting numbers on the seats to cooking hot dogs as a student. It has swelled considerable in the time since.

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