Memorial gift honors lifelong friendship
Each year on April 5, a bouquet of flowers is placed on a redwood table located between Walker and Adams towers. The gesture is the way OU alumnus Ted Bibbo honors his friend, the late Dee Atkinson, on what was her birthday.
The redwood table is the Diedra Vaughncelle Atkinson and George Edward Bibbo Table, which Bibbo donated in 2004 as a tribute to Atkinson, whom he met during their freshman year at OU in 1967. The two hit it off immediately, despite their differences, and developed an enduring friendship that lasted until Atkinson died in September 2003 after a 20-month battle with breast cancer.
“Never were there two more different and diverse friends,” Bibbo said of Dee and himself. “She was black; I was white. She was a Democrat; I was a Republican. She was poor; I was rich. She was a liberal; I was a conservative. She was from Tulsa; I was from New York. She was African-American; I was Italian-WASP. But from that, over a table in the cafeteria, a friendship grew into a brother-sister relationship that lasted 36 years. She was my very, very best friend – a person whom I, and she in reverse, could talk to about any subject at any time.”
The table itself represents Bibbo’s hope for students to open themselves up to diverse ideas and people and gain a better understanding of humankind through such relationships. (Bibbo has donated a second memorial table in Atkinson’s honor for the OU-Tulsa campus, in honor of the fact Tulsa was Dee’s hometown.)
And while each year brings new students to the table, the message this memorial gift engenders, inset on a plaque, remains the same: “You are invited to sit as equals to share your thoughts, life experiences, and friendship. Agree to disagree, listen to each other, never tell each other what to do, but only what you would do, and always leave as friends.”
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