STILLWATER — The Oklahoma State University Student Union was bustling with graduates and their families Saturday morning, but one senior had one more guest than she expected.
Army Sgt. Chris Upshaw surprised his sister, OSU senior Lauren Reid, at a reception Saturday morning for graduates of OSU's Spears School of Business. Reid graduated from OSU Saturday with a general business degree.
Upshaw, who serves with the 523rd Horizontal Engineer Company, is deployed to Camp Covington in Guam. Reid didn't expect her brother to be able to make it to Oklahoma to see her graduate.
“It's definitely a surprise,” she said, still tearful just moments after her brother walked in to the Student Union Ballroom.
During the reception, Mark Weiser, the business school's associate dean, called Reid to the stage, saying he'd picked a student at random to highlight the students' accomplishments. He asked her about the guests she'd brought with her to the reception, and who would be joining her later on for commencement.
Then, Weiser told her there was a special guest who had come to help her celebrate. As Reid scanned the crowded room and wondered who the guest might be, Upshaw, dressed in Army fatigues, walked out of a back room and into the ballroom.
When she spotted him, Reid clapped a hand over her mouth in surprise, and then threw her arms around her brother.
Reid has always been supportive of his Army career, Upshaw said, but he's had to miss milestones in the past because of it. Upshaw missed his sister's graduation from Perry High School because he was deployed to Iraq. So it was important to him that he make it to Reid's graduation from OSU, Upshaw said.
Upshaw had been planning the surprise for several months, he said, making calls to a number of OSU departments to see what could be arranged. All the while, he kept the secret from all but the closest family and friends. He was worried some detail of the visit would wind up on Facebook, and the surprise would be ruined, he said.
Although most family and friends didn't know Upshaw would be in town at all, he did have help with arranging the visit. Without giving the secret away, several family members mentioned to Reid that it might be nice if she went to the business school's reception.
The planning and secret-keeping worked, Reid said. Until the moment he walked into the ballroom, she didn't suspect anything out of the ordinary, she said.
“I had no idea,” she said.
Before Saturday, Reid and Upshaw hadn't seen each other since a visit he made to Oklahoma in December. Before that visit, it had been much longer, Upshaw said.
The two keep in close contact while he's away, he said. But it's difficult to see each other in person very often, with thousands of miles and an ocean in between.
“It's few and far between,” he said. “You can't just get in the car and drive.”