By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
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.
“Nothing is the same as it was back then,” Newland said.
So has Newland’s family. Newman and his wife, Barbara, now have 58 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Fifteen of them will be at the commencement ceremony to finally see Newman get his degree.
Even that will be something new. Like many, Newman misplaced his degree years ago. OU will provide him with a copy tonight.
“You just can’t describe the feeling,” Newland said. “It’s something that I’ve waited for a long time and I’m glad they will all be there.”