Waurika News Democrat

Local News

May 22, 2013

Crowd pleaser

Waurika Commencement speaker will keep it short but relative

WAURIKA — It wasn’t so long ago Dr. Amy Hurst was wearing a cardinal gown, sitting with classmates who were listening to a keynote speaker at a Waurika High School Commencement.

She was Amy Biby when the seniors in the WHS Class of 1996 received their diplomas. That event triggered a series of graduation ceremonies — and listening to other keynote speakers — that have become part of the routine of Hurst’s life.

There was a ceremony at Oklahoma State University in 2000, at which Hurst received a bachelor’s degree in biomedicine; another commencement at OSU in 2005, when she achieved a doctorate from the biochemistry department.

And since becoming a professor in the life science program at Rose State University in 2006, Hurst has been in the audience for several graduation functions, listening to keynote speakers.

When it comes to graduation ceremonies, Dr. Amy Biby Hurst has been there. As the 2013 Spirit of the Eagle award winner, she’ll try to transfer that experience as the keynote speaker at Waurika’s Commencement Exercise, at 8 p.m. Friday.

“I’ve been in that seat as a graduate, and I completely understand what it’s like when you’re sitting there having to listen to speakers,” Hurst said, with a chuckle.

She quickly added, “My speech is probably going to be pretty short!”

At the same time, since she will have the attention of the crowd at WHS Gymnasium, Hurst wants to make the best of the moment.

The speech, she said, “Will be something that relates to (the graduates’) interests as much as possible; something they can connect to, not something that is too abstract or too preachy.

“I want to really convey that Waurika, as a school system, has prepared them well for the future.”

In presenting evidence of how Waurika Independent School District 23 has honed students for future success, Hurst can offer herself as an example.

Although the Spirit of the Eagle winner was born in California, the Biby family moved to Savanna, Okla. when she was 2 years old. Three years later, Hurst’s mother, Judy Biby, became a teacher in Waurika.

Hurst has no regret that the family put down roots in the Jefferson County community and District 23.

“Sometimes, being from a small town, people think it’s the big-city kids who are getting a better education and have more opportunities to be successful. That’s not true,” she said.

“An amazing amount of successful people come from Waurika. I graduated in 1996 and we had four valedictorians in our class. Three of us are doctors now, and the other has a successful career in x-ray technology.

“Being from a small town isn’t a bad thing, and small-town schools do a good job of educating kids.”

As Hurst’s education career has progress, she’s discovered the “small town” concept can also carry-over into higher education.

While Hurst was progressing through the doctoral program at Oklahoma State, she and husband Travis had their sons Tanner (13) and Logan (9) enrolled in the rural Mulhall school system, rather than the Stillwater district.

When it came time to get a full-time job, Hurst accepted a position at Rose State College, a community college in Midwest City.

“When I was done at OSU, I had discovered I loved teaching and the ability to interact with students and help them understand what I love about biochemistry.

“Biochemistry is a nice, broad-scoped field, and in that program I got exposed to research and lab work. That’s how I got lured over to ‘the dark side’ of research.

“Rose State has been a great place to do that. The good thing about a community college is that as an educator you get the one-on-one interaction with students. As a student at a community college, your teachers will ‘dog’ you more and help you more, because (the instructor) has more invested in the students.

“It’s a lot like the education experience you get in a small-town school, like Waurika.”

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