Let me get this out of way right now. I am a huge fan of Sherri Coale, the head coach of the women’s basketball team at the University of Oklahoma. So are a lot of people and she is in great demand to make appearances at various events not only around Norman, but around the state and the country.
Now I know why. Her address at our convocation ceremony Saturday was genuine, folksy, well-delivered and filled with anecdotal stories that really struck a chord. Sorry for this cliché but it was a hands-on-rim slam dunk.
Who would have thought stories about a one-armed swimmer, the red woods of California, violinist Joshua Bell, sand at the Mexican border, the importance of putting on socks and the origins of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel could be so eloquently put together into an inspirational and encouraging message to simply do our best.
Coach Coale did. I can’t presume to retell her stories so instead here are a few outtakes of what she said.
“The purpose of education is not to make us smart and not to make us happy. It is to make us useful. As you stand here today on the precipice of this momentous occasion, a lot of people have made this possible, have helped you along your way. The piece of paper is not the most important part. You have knowledge in your head, you have facts and figures and information, you have an ability to process and analyze and those are fabulous things. That piece of paper is a reminder that you did the dirty work, that you persevered, and they are important, but they are not the most important thing.
“The most important thing that you take away is your passion to pursue knowledge. People who passionately pursue knowledge will never be hungry, never be thirsty and will never be alone because knowledge teaches you how to seek out the things that you need.”
Cool, isn’t it?
Then, she said there are three things that she was pretty sure we already know and are not going to change.
1. Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.
2. Learn to pay attention because most of the people in the world don’t.
3. There is no such thing as a little thing.
Point one was supported by a story Coale had read about a young swimmer with one arm. Number two featured an incredible experiment conducted by the Washington Post that included planting the world’s virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell in a metro train station to see who was paying attention. And her last point was supported by the tale of legendary basketball Coach John Wooden teaching his players how to properly put on socks, followed by the way little things endeared the keeper of a small inn to the man who built the historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
OK, so this is a very brief synopsis of what the coach had to say but here is how she finished: “What the world needs is people who are fully alive.”
I don’t think there is any better description of the kind of education we provide to our students at CLS and the kind of people they become as a result.
Bravo Coach Coale! Here is a standing O!
Update: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017.