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May 13, 2013

At 81, Oklahoma alumnus finally attends graduation

The IBM 650 computer system kept Harold Newland from his University of Oklahoma graduation. Now, nearly 55 years later, he's participated in the ceremony that comes with the degree.

Newland, 81, joined OU's 121st commencement  on Friday - a surprise arranged by his son, Rory. He received a fresh copy of the accounting degree he earned in the fall of 1958 but had since misplaced.

Out of college, Newland took a job with a utility in Beaumont, Texas. When graduation ceremony rolled around the following spring, he couldn't get leave to attend. His office was installing the new IBM 650 and no one could get time off.

Newland had a degree. Business-wise, it didn't matter that he missed the ceremony.  It didn't prevent his move from the utility into a 30-year career in the Navy.  But Newland spent years thinking about someday returning for graduation - a dream he could quite fulfill.

Much has changed since Newland attended OU from 1954 to 1958 and worked in the athletics department while not in class. Owen Field could seat 55,000 people when he painted numbers on the seats. Now called Gaylord Memorial Stadium, it seats 82,000.

Newland's family has changed, too. He and his wife, Barbara, have 58 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Fifteen of them planned to attend the Friday ceremony to see Newland get his degree.

“You just can’t describe the feeling,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve waited for a long time, and I’m glad they will all be there.”

Details for this story were provided by The Norman, Okla., Transcript.

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