Former Lincoln High student returns book to teacher 30 years later

Reunion Pic
Reunion Pic(1011 NOW)
Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 2:48 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Teachers can leave lasting impacts on those they teach, and for one combo 30 years apart, didn’t do anything to change the bond they formed at Lincoln High School.

Sharon Okra has been around the world and back during her time in the military. During this time she brought a book she was given in 1991 by a favorite Lincoln High School Teacher.

On Tuesday morning she returned it to her during a tearful reunion.

Tucked away in the back corner of The Mill in downtown Lincoln. 30 years melted away as student and teacher were reunited.

“I appreciate that about Miss Kupfer, her kindness and her gentleness and her soul,” Okra said. “It always spoke to me. I’ve never wanted to give the book up no matter how many times I’ve packed it and unpacked it.”

Okra has carried her copy of Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde, a coming of age biography about a woman of color, for 30 years. To Oklahoma, Germany, and her first deployment to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield.

“It was always a goal of mine to return it to her in person,” Okra said. “How much I appreciated her and how glad I was that she was my teacher.”

Ruth Kupfer was Okra’s women’s literature teacher during her time at Lincoln High. Kupfer doesn’t remember why she gave Okra the book in the first place but remembers her well as a student.

“Being with her today just reminded me how wonderful she is,” Kupfer said. “She’s been involved in so many adventures in her life and is helping people in ways they really need it.”

Kupfer retired from teaching about 10 years ago with a few doubts about the move. She says seeing Okra again and hearing about the difference and lasting impact she made gives her long-overdue reassurance about her career choice.

“To hear what she had to say to me today was just priceless,” Kupfer said. “In terms of I think I did okay.”

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