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.
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.”
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).
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.