OHS graduates Olivia Upham (left) and Drake Barry were named the 2017 winners of the Oxford Cup. They are now part of a Wildcat tradition that stretches back to 1930. For more graduation stories and photos, pick up a copy of The Oxford Leader for only $1. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
The Oxford Cup is more than just some old metal trophy that gets trotted out once a year during the high school graduation ceremony.
It’s a fraternity that has linked generations of Wildcats for nearly nine decades. It’s a symbol of all that is good and decent in this small town. It’s a tradition that inspires students to better themselves, their school and their community.
Newly-minted OHS graduates Drake Barry and Olivia Upham now have their names permanently engraved on the Oxford Cup as they became its 2017 recipients during the commencement held June 6 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Independence Township.
“It was a complete surprise to me. I had no idea this would happen,” Upham said. “The fact that it’s been around for 87 years just makes it that much more special.”
“It’s one of those awards that you hear about, but you never think that you’ll win it,” Barry said. “It’s something really special you can share with your family, all your friends and all your classmates.”
Since 1930, the silver cup has been awarded annually at commencement to the graduating OHS senior in the top 100 of his or her class who’s shown the best all-around development.
Traditionally, one student received the Oxford Cup, but that changed in 2012 and now, the honor is shared by one male student and one female student.
Selected by a vote of the junior and senior classes, along with the OHS faculty, the winners must exhibit proficiency in scholarship, friendly social qualities, well-balanced physical development and superior school citizenship.
“I’m very thankful to all the wonderful teachers that I’ve met here because I truly wouldn’t be the person I am today without them,” Upham said.
This fall, Upham will begin her studies at The George Washington University in Washington D.C. She plans to double major in international affairs and journalism.
“I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was super little and I’m very passionate about global politics,” Upham said. “There’s no better place than D.C. to pursue those things.”
“I’d like to be a diplomat and a writer, but I’m leaving the door open for everything,” she noted.
As a junior at OHS, Upham organized a school/community event to show solidarity with Paris, France following the Nov. 13, 2015 terrorist attacks on the city and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis. Those attacks killed 130 people and wounded more than 350.
Armed with flashlights, glow sticks, cell phones and other light sources, an estimated 200 people gathered in the center of a darkened OHS football field to form the shape of the iconic Eiffel Tower.
Upham, who spent four years on the ski team and is a member of the National Honor Society, will miss “the smallness and the intimacy” of living in Oxford.
“Growing up in such a small town, you get to know everyone and form those meaningful connections,” she said. “Going to school in such a big city next year, that’s something I’ll hold dear to my heart.”
To her fellow graduates, Upham urged them to “remember where they came from,” remember the “small-town lessons learned here” and remember “how lucky” they were to have grown up in Oxford.
To students starting their freshman year at OHS this fall, Upham gave this advice – “Take your time. It goes by so fast. Don’t be in a rush to figure out who you are because it all comes in good time.”
For Barry, winning the Oxford Cup was the second major honor he’s received over the last few weeks. On May 21, he was presented the George Prince Award for being the most outstanding male athlete in the senior class. He lettered in both football and track/field.
“I’m very thankful and very blessed,” Barry said.
This fall, Barry will begin studying engineering at Lawrence Technological University (LTU) in Southfield. There, he will be part of the first LTU football team since the 1940s. The school decided to reinstitute the football program after a 70-year hiatus and will begin competing in 2018.
“Football is a big part of my life,” said Barry, who played on Oxford’s varsity squad for three years. One of his fondest high school memories happened on the gridiron on Aug. 26 last year. That’s when the Wildcats beat Romeo, the defending Division 1 state champions at the time, in a dramatic, come-from-behind victory. The final score was 27-26. “It was really something special,” Barry said.
Barry is extremely grateful to Bud Rowley for the influential role the legendary football coach played in his young life.
“He’s a great man. I look up to him,” he said. “A lot of people don’t understand all that he teaches us. He really molded me into who I am today. He taught me a lot of great values that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m going to miss him a lot.”
To his fellow graduates, Barry encouraged them to “stay true to who you are” and “remember that you’re from Oxford.”
“It’s a family here,” he said. “You can always come back and talk if you’re ever having an issue.”
To the incoming freshman class, Barry offered this advice – “Everyone has something special inside them. You’ve just got to work as hard as you can and put forth all the effort that you can to be a great person and a great student.”
Finalists for the Oxford Cup included Sophia Bell, Brooke Hebb, Madison Dinges, Jacinta Hogan, Adam Bell, Dylan Koss, Trenton Sabo and Garrett Tyrrell.