NORMAN, Oklahoma - They sprinted and hurdled. They went through early morning workouts on the water. They threw baseballs and softballs. They won back-to-back Big 12 football titles. They celebrated penalty kicks and stopped rallies with blocks.

On Friday night, they also did something else together – they became alumni of the University of Oklahoma as the College of Arts and Sciences was one of two OU colleges to celebrate its winter convocation, honoring the most recent OU graduates. Gallogly College of Engineering also held its ceremony Friday night.

Kelly Damphousse, dean of the largest, oldest and most diverse college, welcomed the graduates, families and friends to the special ceremony. He took special time to encourage the graduates to thank those who had helped them to this place – faculty, family and friends.

“Congratulations on a job well done,” Damphousse praised. “Over the course of the past four (or five or six) years, we have challenged you and you have responded.  Your hard work has prepared you for the challenges that await you starting Monday.

“Your time here at OU has prepared you to handle those challenges,” Damphousse continued. “Your professors have not focused only on WHAT to learn but also on HOW to learn. In fact, that is one secret to success - never stop learning. That one skill will make you valuable to everyone you work with in the future. Don’t accept the status quo. Ask questions. Collect data. Suggest improvements based on empirical evidence. Remain curious and never stop learning.”

He closed his remarks by challenging the grads to make a better world. “First, act ethically. Second, help others.  Third, lead. Use what you learned here to guide others and help shape opinion in a positive direction.”

Following Damphousse’s comments, he introduced Victoria Walker, a member of the Sooner rowing program and graduate with a degree in philosophy, to address the Class of 2016.

“I am honored and excited to celebrate this moment with you,” Wallace began. ”College is hard, and we did it.  I hope you are proud of all of the work that you put into getting to this moment. I found myself appreciating all of my experiences from the past four years.  That appreciation turned into a realization that we completed an extraordinary feat that few still get to achieve—college graduation.

“Throughout our four years all of us have identified as a college student, and for me a student-athlete. Tonight we retire that identity, well most of us, and pick up a new identity as alumni, adult or both” Wallace continued. “I was blessed to have the opportunity to be on the rowing team all four years.  Reflecting on the time and energy dedicated to waking up in the depth of night for morning practices, completing all of my school work as well as striving to do real people things like grocery shopping and paying bills, and squeezing in little things like eating and resting, I concluded that thought with, ‘wow, I am such an adult.’

“For some reason, I thought the goal of college was to establish my adult identity.  Throughout my senior year, I was asked what I was doing after college. I quickly realized that the college responsibilities prepared me instead of establishing me for the adulting that lies before me.”

Wallace continued by saying “it's our turn to go into the world and discover our new ones. It's a little scary, but it’s pretty exciting to consider the possibilities we have to establish this new identity for ourselves.  Knowing that we are graduating from a prestigious institution like the University of Oklahoma makes me feel more at ease about tackling the adulting that awaits us tomorrow. If you already know what awaits you for life after OU and your new identity, I hope you are the best at whatever it is you want to be. If you're like me, I am embracing the infinite possibilities that await me,” Wallace added.

After recognizing those who graduated with a variety of honors, the conferring of nearly 500 degrees began. Among those honored Friday night by Arts and Sciences was one master’s degree student, Matthias Wicks, and 22 undergraduates.