Years ago, my Fort Worth apartment was burglarized, and I was more than upset. I was hurt that I had been violated so.
Taking an inventory of the missing items — a television set, video recorder, stereo system, a couple of electric kitchen items, an old watch, loose coins — was one of the most distressing rituals I can remember.
It was later that I thought to check the little black box that I’d hoped the thief had overlooked. But before I opened it, I knew the intruder had made off with my most treasured possessions at the time: my high school and college class rings.
Both rings had my name engraved inside the bands. For months, and in fact for a couple of years, I held out hope that I would one day hear the words, “Mr. Sanders, I think we have something that belongs to you,” from a police detective or pawnbroker. It never happened, and I eventually gave up hope of ever seeing my North Texas ring.
This was before I was married and long before my now 22-year-old son (a senior at UNT) was born. Yes, it has been that many years ago and still the memory stays with me.
Last year, a colleague at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was cleaning out his desk before leaving the paper. He came across a 1980 high school ring he had found on a downtown street two years earlier and charged me with finding its owner.
It took a while, but from the ring’s inscriptions and symbols I was able to narrow it to Union High School in Tulsa, Okla. A series of articles led me to the owner, a disabled veteran of the Persian Gulf War. (That’s another story.)
In that first column, I mentioned casually how my class rings had been “lost” as a way of explaining how significant and symbolic such an item could be to a student.
I thought my story of the lost ring had ended once I connected the former Union High student with his ring. The true ending, however, came in April when I got my college ring back.
The UNT Alumni Association had heard about my loss and wanted to replace my ring. They invited me to the spring ring ceremony for the presentation and asked if I would speak about what
the university and the symbol of the ring meant to me.
I told the students that UNT was a place where I had been taught, prepared for a career, nurtured and encouraged. UNT was a place where I had been loved.
In a Star-Telegram column the week after the ring ceremony, I explained my feelings this way:
“For a young man who grew up in a segregated world and who, at times, thought his wings had been clipped by society, I came to a university whose mascot was an eagle.
“That image on the ring, with its outstretched wings and poised talons, is a daily reminder that I attended an institution that gave me the courage and the ability to soar — far above the limits others had placed on me.
“For that I shall be eternally grateful.”
Bob Ray Sanders is a Fort Worth
Star-Telegram columnist and vice president/