Per­sonal in­vi­ta­tions

Tulsa World - - Metro&region - By Kyle Hinchey will have to choose

OWASSO — Keenan Hol­sap­ple walked into Owasso High School on Thurs­day morn­ing with an in­vi­ta­tion from only one of the two col­leges on his wish list. Not even two hours later, Univer­sity of Tulsa Pres­i­dent Ger­ard Clancy an­swered the call with a sec­ond in­vi­ta­tion.

Clancy sur­prised more than 300 stu­dents at eight schools across the metro area by per­son­ally de­liv­er­ing early ac­cep­tance let­ters this week.

His visit to Owasso High School came as a com­plete shock to Hol­sap­ple and about two dozen of his class­mates, who were ush­ered into the cafe­te­ria but not told why. They were met there by Clancy and his wife, Paula Clancy, along with a cheer­ing group of TU em­ploy­ees and cur­rent stu­dents.

“This was awe­some,” Hol­sap­ple said. “It re­ally makes me feel like they want me at their univer­sity.”

His in­ter­est in at­tend­ing TU stems from his fa­ther, who grad­u­ated from the pri­vate re­search univer­sity in 1994. But that in­ter­est cli­maxed dur­ing a tour of its com­puter sci­ence pro­gram last year.

Now Hol­sap­ple

be­tween TU and his other of­fer — Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity. His de­ci­sion likely will boil down to cost.

“I know TU is a lit­tle bit more ex­pen­sive, but they're also more will­ing to give out fi­nan­cial aid,” he said. “If I get the fi­nan­cial aid, that would def­i­nitely swing me more to­ward Tulsa.”

Maya Boschee, an Owasso se­nior who ac­cepted an of­fer last month to com­pete in track and field at TU, saw posts on so­cial me­dia about Clancy's stops at other schools ear­lier on Wed­nes­day. She talked with her mom about how cool it was that the univer­sity pres­i­dent was hand­de­liv­er­ing ac­cep­tance let­ters.

Even with the heads-up of the vis­its, Boschee still was caught off guard when it hap­pened at her school.

“I think it kind of speaks to how TU cares about their stu­dents,” she said. “I was ex­cited and sur­prised, but it wouldn't sur­prise me that TU would do that.”

This is the third year the univer­sity has sur­prised area stu­dents with ac­cep­tance let­ters in per­son.

The let­ters are given to the “su­per­star kids” who have proven them­selves ca­pa­ble of ex­celling at the next level, Clancy said.

“These are top-notch stu­dents who have ap­plied to TU,” he said, “and their per­for­mances have been so well that we're able to say in early De­cem­ber, `You're in at TU al­ready.”

Clancy said the per­sonal touch of hand­ing out the let­ters in per­son ap­peals to prospec­tive stu­dents by show­ing them the kind of re­la­tion­ships they can have with their pro­fes­sors and even the univer­sity pres­i­dent.

On a deeper level, he said, this is a crit­i­cal time for Tulsa to be able to re­tain its tal­ent, in part be­cause of a drop-off in the coun­try's birth rate about a decade ago due to the Great Re­ces­sion.

He be­lieves that dropoff will cre­ate a sig­nif­i­cant de­cline in the num­ber of col­lege-el­i­gi­ble stu­dents by 2025 and, as a re­sult, a de­cline in col­lege grad­u­ates.

“It's re­ally im­por­tant for Tulsa to fo­cus on its tal­ent (and) re­tain its tal­ent to keep the econ­omy thriv­ing and … keep that mo­men­tum go­ing,” Clancy said. “This is our ex­tra ef­fort to keep the great tal­ent within these high schools stay­ing in the Tulsa area and liv­ing in Tulsa for the long term.”

MIKE SI­MONS/Tulsa World

Owasso High School stu­dents are filmed by the Univer­sity of Tulsa's Ty Lewis af­ter re­ceiv­ing their ac­cep­tance let­ters from TU Pres­i­dent Ger­ard Clancy (back row, third from right).

MIKE SI­MONS/Tulsa World

Kris­tle Lacy of the Univer­sity of Tulsa waves a hur­ri­cane flag as let­ters of ac­cep­tance to the univer­sity are hand-de­liv­ered to stu­dents at Owasso High School.

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