Sightseeing Sooners 3

Carrying the Sooner Spirit 
Around the World-in Style

The atmosphere in the ballroom of Oklahoma Memorial Union on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus May 20 was charged with electricity–the kind generated when many people gather together prior to a major announcement, such as the Academy Awards.

In this case, the news concerned not the best movies of the year, but rather the lineup of travel programs planned for 2017 through OU’s Sightseeing Sooners.

Some 150 people attended the Sightseeing Sooners’ annual Travel Showcase and Reunion, which is operated out of the OU Alumni Association office and has been coordinated since 2011 by Lea Ann Quirk, director of Alumni Programs.

During the reception, previous Sightseeing Sooners participants–several of whom said they’ve forged lifelong friendships on these travels–took the occasion to get reacquainted or to share their experiences with others considering participating for the first time in 2017.

During the after-dinner program, Quirk provided an overview of the upcoming travel offerings. She was followed by slideshow presentations from several representatives of the tour operators that will be sponsoring the 2017 travel programs. Prizes were awarded throughout the evening.

Whether you’re an OU alumna or alumnus or simply a Sooners fan, Sightseeing Sooners offers a host of travel opportunities that will appeal to beginning and veteran travelers with a modest or more generous budget, along with other attractive benefits.

Norman couple Sandy Kinney, an OU alumna who earned her bachelor’s degree in economics in 1969 master’s degree in education in 1970, and Mike Sugg, who have gone on three previous trips, were impressed with how organizers take care of virtually every detail for participants, freeing the guests from having to deal with logistics and allowing them to spend their time having fun.

In addition, said Sandy, “you will be assigned a knowledgeable guide who will lead you to the best opportunities, and who can answer all your individual questions, like where to go for dinner at a port of call.”

The couple has gone on three previous Sightseeing Sooners trips: a cruise through the Panama Canal, a land tour of Costa Rica and (most recently) a cruise down the coast of California.

Mike and Sandy were especially thrilled with their wine country tour, which included an intimate after-hours dinner gathering at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, where they toured the world-famous wine cellars and, of course, partook of wine samplings.

Fellow Travel Showcase and Reunion guests Jim and Sharon Pregler of Edmond also have enjoyed three previous trips with Sightseeing Sooners–to South America, Italy and Ireland–making lifelong friends during each. Both are OU alumni: Jim earned a degree in mechanical engineering in 1972, Sharon an education degree in 1971.

Asked if they enjoyed one trip more than the others, he replied, “It’s really impossible to name a most favorite trip. Each were special in their own unique way. We ultimately found that some of the out-of-the-way places you would never find on you own made lasting memories.

“The trips are just great!  You don’t have to plan anything. Just prepare to see the sights, culture and food of the new places you are about to see.”

The couple currently is planning their fourth Sightseeing Sooners journey, this one to China.

“Sightseeing Sooners gives alumni and friends the added value of traveling with other Sooners and reconnecting to your alma mater in an exciting way,” Quirk said. “Sometimes our trips include an OU faculty host who can provide an extra layer of education to the tour and an added connection back to OU. Our goal in offering this program is to provide educational travel opportunities for alumni and friends, and to carry the strong Sooner spirit around the world.

“It’s truly a way to carry out the charge to ‘live on’ globally.”

Out of the 30 trips offered per year, about three to five are hosted by OU faculty, Quirk said, noting that these faculty-hosted tours are always land tours and are OU exclusives, meaning trips planned exclusively for OU travelers, as opposed to other trips where other university alumni groups may be represented.

On these trips, the faculty host acts as an ambassador for the university and, if they hold expertise in the area being visited, may offer lectures to enhance participants’ learning experience.

Three OU faculty-hosted tours are planned for 2017: Alan Levenson, the Josey/Schusterman Chair in Judaic History, and his wife, Hilary, will lead “Israel: Timeless Wonders”; Price College of Business Dean Daniel Pullin and his wife, Tamara, will lead “Provincial French Countryside,” during which he will provide insight into French business models that are currently being used in the country; and Jonathan Stalling, editor of Chinese Literature Today, will lead “China and the Yangtze River.”

Quirk is happy to chat with anyone interested in booking a travel tour with them, and encourages them to contact her at 325.1710.

“We offer about 30 tours each year, with a wide-range of travel modes and pricing,” she said. “We feel that traveling with the Sooner family makes for a memorable and enjoyable experience and connects you back to OU in a unique way. It’s always better to ‘travel Sooner’!”