Tenneys enjoy special family moment at Rice commencement

david tenney

David Tenney stood onstage at Rice Stadium Saturday, handing out diplomas to graduating students one by one. Rice’s undergraduate commencement ceremony is an event he knows well, having not only received his degree from Rice in 1987 but also having worked as the university’s registrar for two decades. But this time was different. A special moment he’d been waiting for was finally here: His son Jonathan Tenney was among the graduates.

david tenney
Jonathan Tenney and David Tenney at the Rice commencement ceremony. Photo by Brandon Martin/Rice University.

“This year was extraordinary because my youngest son was one of the students to whom I had the privilege of handing a diploma tube,” David said. “It was very meaningful to me.”

For Jonathan, who majored in computational and applied mathematics, the occasion was equally significant. “To have my father hand me my diploma is incredibly special,” Jonathan said.

What made the exchange even more memorable was a distinct family handshake ritual, incorporating several fist bumps and finger snapping, created by Jonathan and his siblings when they were young.

“My dad had been handing out diplomas all day, but once he saw me, he got ready for our handshake,” Jonathan said. “I’d been waiting for it my entire time at Rice.”

Watching from the stadium stands and virtually from around the nation were the extended Tenney family and friends collectively celebrating Jonathan’s achievement.

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Jonathan aspires to travel the world, drawing inspiration from his academic pursuits at Rice. Photo by Brandon Martin/Rice University.

“Seeing Jonathan and his classmates complete their college journey was truly a cause for celebration,” David said. “The commencement ceremony was wonderful.”

Looking ahead, Jonathan aspires to travel the world, drawing inspiration from his academic pursuits at Rice. “I’ve been inspired to reflect on global diversity and want to immerse myself in different cultures,” he said.

Meanwhile, David will continue his career at Rice, but campus life won’t be quite the same. “When Jonathan was a student, I would occasionally see him on campus and wave,” David said. “I’ll miss that now that he’s finished school, but I’ll always treasure those moments.”

As for his role in future commencements, David remains unwavering in his enthusiasm. “When the student degree candidate hears their name called and walks across the stage, I have a front-row seat,” David said. “I have the privilege of greeting them briefly and handing them a diploma tube. It is really special.”