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As daughter graduates, just one request

After a year away because of the pandemic, history major returns to campus.

MALIBU, Calif. — My 21-year-old daughter, Kendall, and I are driving through a dark tunnel on a twisty canyon road when a perfect dad joke hits me.

At just the right moment, as the sun beams up ahead, I try out my bit of humor.

“After all this COVID-19 stuff, there’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” I tell her.

A tunnel on a roadway near Malibu, Calif.

A tunnel on a roadway near Malibu, Calif.

I wait for a chuckle. Or at least a groan. But there’s no response.

I think maybe my daughter found me funnier when she was younger.

This same child — now young adult — informed me when she was 10 that I had three kinds of laughs.

“Huh?” I said at the time.

“Yeah, you have your reporter laugh where you laugh real quickly, and then you get back to your interview,” she replied. “You have your pity laugh, which is two short huffs. And you have your real laugh.”

As we cruise toward the Pacific Ocean, I decide that Kendall must be deep in thought about her approaching graduation from Pepperdine University. My dad joke was obviously hilarious. She must have missed it. Let’s go with that.

I last wrote a column about Kendall four years ago when she was honored as one of her high school’s valedictorians. 

Her father, mother and two older brothers all attended Oklahoma Christian University. 

But Kendall likes to zig when other people zag. So she chose Pepperdine — 1,400 miles from home.


Related: Before baby bird leaves the nest, a trip to remember


“She plans to major in political science and history and then, at some point, become president of the United States,” I said in that 2017 column.

I also may have made a sappy comment about my baby bird growing up and flying away.

Certainly, she gained an incredible number of frequent-flier miles her first few years at Pepperdine. 

https://www.facebook.com/PepperdineDebate/posts/2740284569366663

As a member and later student director of the Waves debate team, she competed in Canada, England, the Netherlands, South Africa and all over the U.S.

She spent her sophomore year in Pepperdine’s since-closed Shanghai program. 

She served as a resident assistant and enjoyed visiting Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Thailand, Tibet and South Korea. In Tibet, she donned a furry hat, rode a yak and accidentally kicked a monk. I wish I had the space to share full details.

But then came something none of us anticipated: a once-in-a-century pandemic. 

My daughter returned home to Oklahoma City midway through the spring semester of her junior year. She — like thousands of classmates — completed most of her final three semesters remotely.

Until our recent trip, she had not set foot on the Pepperdine campus in over a year. 

She returned to make her senior history thesis presentation in person.

Kendall Ross, right, with her father, Bobby Ross Jr., at Pepperdine University.

Kendall Ross, right, with her father, Bobby Ross Jr., at Pepperdine University.

She invited me to go with her but stressed, “You can’t be weird if I hang out with my friends.”

I found cheap airfare for the two of us from Dallas to Los Angeles and booked a rental car. We are both fully vaccinated so felt comfortable traveling.

Once in Southern California, I spent time on the beach while Kendall caught up with Pepperdine friends. 

To my delight, she also carved out a window to eat lunch with me at Paradise Cove. That popular beachside restaurant is familiar to most who have attended Pepperdine’s annual Bible lectures. We shared a $32.95 entree of fish and chips.

That night, Kendall and four fellow history majors made their presentations to professor Loretta Hunnicutt and other faculty members and relatives watching on Zoom. When we made the trip, I thought that COVID-19 protocols might prevent me from being in the classroom.

So I felt extremely blessed when Hunnicutt, a Christian Chronicle reader, welcomed parents to watch the soon-to-be graduates’ reports in person. Many of us celebrated outside afterward at Malibu Yogurt & Ice Cream. I am sad to report no celebrity sightings.

Kendall Ross makes her senior history thesis presentation at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

Kendall Ross makes her senior history thesis presentation at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

Kendall titled her thesis “Knit it to Win it: Division and Empowerment in Black and White Women’s Great War Knitting Movements.”

The topic reflects my daughter’s keen interest in knitting. 

During her Pepperdine years, she turned her favorite hobby into an entrepreneurial career, starting a business called I’d Knit That. In a short time, it has amassed more than 24,000 Instagram followers. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/CKMjGZaLK1S/

In fact, Kendall has decided to forgo graduate studies in history and focus on growing her company.

My wife, Tamie, and I could not be more proud of her.

My only request, dear daughter: Next time I tell a dad joke, please acknowledge it with at least a pity laugh.

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

Filed under: Coronavirus higher education I'd Knit That Inside Story Kendall Ross knitting Malibu Opinion pandemic Pepperdine University Top Stories travel

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