An empty nest for the Swans

Clockwise from left: Corlie, Halie, Whitnie, Stephani, Ronnie
Clockwise from left: Corlie, Halie, Whitnie, Stephani, Ronnie

When she drove onto the campus, an unexpected wave of emotion swept over her. She had to stop and take in the moment. She was very sentimental about all that had happened the last few years of their lives, but she was also very happy.

The whirlwind of the last few months had swirled around even faster than their normal pace of hectic. A graduation. A wedding. Another graduation. Now, their youngest is heading to college.

The empty nest looms ahead.

“I guess I’ll just go to work, then eat Lean Cuisine in front of the TV and go to bed,” said Stephani Swan, laughing when she tries to picture her life when the last of their girls begins college at OC.

But Ronnie Swan won’t mind spending a little time catching his breath. The father of three daughters easily admits he’s tired. It has been a long stint of back-to-back-to-back activities for their daughters Corlie, Halie and Whitnie. Mom and Dad have been there for all of it.

Although the activities have changed, in all actuality, the pace doubtfully will. The Swans have traded Friday night football games and 4-H animal shows for activities such as OC’s Homecoming, Spring Sing, and catching as many concerts as they can of the Summer Singers, OC’s popular recruiting band that features middle daughter Halie as singer.

“We feel so blessed,” Stephani said. “We could not have dreamed of anything better for our girls.”

Although neither Ronnie, farmer and rancher, nor Stephani, a teacher, attended a Christian university, both strongly believe in the value of Christian higher education for their daughters.

And they believe in Oklahoma Christian University.

“We felt that OC was more in tune with our family values and with how we want to see our kids continue to grow,” Ronnie said.

Mom and Dad also take great comfort in knowing their girls are safe on campus and are cared about by the faculty and staff.

When Corlie had to leave campus during finals week for a death in her fiancé’s family, her teachers not only were understanding, they assured her they were praying for her.

From her earliest days, oldest daughter Corlie remembers wanting to come to OC. It started with her aunt, Shanna Corley Burns, and escalated in seventh grade when Corlie went to church camp at Camp LuJo in Faxon, Okla.

“I remember seeing the Summer Singers and I was hooked,” she said. Corlie graduated from OC in 2006 with a major in marketing. She married Heath Agnew, who happened to have grown up within 10 miles of Corlie near Vernon, Texas. Their romance blossomed at OC.

Sisters Halie and Whitnie have similar stories. Their love for OC developed at church camp and blossomed when their oldest sister paved the way. Two of the girls even ended up being roommates with a LuJo buddy.

For eight straight years, the Swans will have two girls in college (these are also years in which the record droughts in Texas and Oklahoma have made it very difficult for the farm and ranching industry).

“It’s been a sacrifice,” said Stephani. But she quickly adds it’s been well worth it. Life certainly will be different for Stephani and Ronnie in their empty nest.

Stephani is grateful for her second graders who will keep her busy, and Ronnie already has become involved in giving underprivileged area kids a chance at ranch life – including feeding their llamas: “Napoleon” and “Tina.”

But rest assured, the Swans will also continue wearing out the path from Vernon to campus.

This story originally appeared in the 2006-07 edition of Oklahoma Christian University's Parent View magazine.