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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Finish what you start: OSU graduate walks across stage 48 years after earning degree

STILLWATER, Okla. – Jerry Ott, a humble family man who uses words like honor, respect, responsibility and service, has worn many hats over the years.
Finish what you start: OSU graduate walks across stage 48 years after earning degree

After graduating 48 years ago, Jerry Ott walks across the stage to receive his degrees from CASNR.

However, the educator, administrator, veteran and 1970 graduate of Oklahoma State University had on a new type of cap Dec. 16. While he completed his requirements for his bachelor’s degrees in vocational agriculture and agronomy in the fall of 1969, his opportunity to walk across the stage was taken away when learned he was going to be drafted into the military.

Ott served in the United States Army and the Oklahoma Army National Guard during the Vietnam Era from 1969 to 1979. When his classmates were participating in all their commencement activities in May 1970, Ott was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

When a family friend contacted OSU and shared the story of Ott’s missed opportunity to walk across the stage to receive his diploma, a cap and gown was shipped to the family. As Ott walked into his son’s house before church one Sunday morning, he was asked to take off his coat.

“I could tell something was wrong. There were tears in his eyes,” Ott said. “I tried it on and I felt pretty big, I felt pretty important. I didn’t want people to make a fuss about it, it’s been long time ago. The students that graduated Saturday, their parents weren’t even born yet, probably, when I graduated from OSU.”

A few days after trying on his new graduation attire, Ott received a phone call from Tom Coon, vice president of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. It then became official; Ott was invited to the Fall 2017 OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Commencement, a short 48 years after he graduated.

“You always finish the job you start and don’t give up or quit until the job is finished,” he said. “It may not mean anything to you now, but as I’ve experienced 48 years later, it’s pretty important. OSU is a good place.”

Coon was happy and excited to extend the invitation.

“Mr. Ott and I have something in common, many years of public service in education and a love for Oklahoma State University,” Coon said. “The opportunity to demonstrate his love of education to his grandchildren and other youngsters is a terrific gift that we can provide to him this holiday season. It’s an honor when alumni come back to visit the OSU campus and certainly Mr. Ott’s walk across the stage was a long time coming.”

Strangely enough, while Ott just walked at a graduation for the first time, he has officiated many ceremonies over the years.

“Every time we had those graduations, I’d always think about not being able to walk at graduation,” he said. “It’s always been important to me. My parents didn’t get to see me graduate from college, they’re gone now, and I was hoping that they would because they helped me, encouraged me and kept me going.”

Daily flag salutes throughout his educational upbringing in the Drummond school district helped instill his sense of patriotism, which continued to grow during his time in Stillwater, and even more so while serving the country.

“My military career means a lot to me,” said Ott, proud husband, father and grandfather of five. “I’ve always told the kids, I really thought I was doing it for myself, but as time went on I realized I was doing it for them. I love this country and I know we’re going to make it.”

His passion for Old Glory has remained throughout his decades-long career in education. He has taught vo-ag, science and history and has been a principal and superintendent in the Ames, Drummond and Pioneer-Pleasant Vale school districts over the years. Living on his family farm just outside Enid, Oklahoma, Ott is currently serving as the administrative assistant to the principal at Pioneer-Pleasant Vale.

He has given many speeches during Veteran’s Day programs and carried the colors numerous times before local athletic events and celebrations. It is his deep-rooted passion for the United States and unwavering respect for the American flag he hopes to pass to future generations.

Every Independence Day, Ott and his family raise a brand new flag in his yard. His five grandchildren rotate the honor and responsibility of running the new flag up to the top of the pole to fly high in the sky.

“They all know how important it is to me,” he said, holding back tears. “That’s more than just a piece of cloth with colors and stars and stripes. I’ve just always tried to do my part to bring honor to those veterans that served in all the wars, because I think it’s important kids understand the meaning of the flag and what it stands for.”

While Ott said he does not feel deserving of all the attention, time and effort given to his day of walking across that stage, he is appreciative and proud to be an OSU Cowboy.

“I’m happy to represent OSU. I’m happy to represent the country and I’m happy to represent the flag, because they’re all very important to me,” he said.

Loyal and true, OSU.


Sean Hubbard
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
157 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-4490
Fax: 405-744-5739

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078

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