By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Faculty, staff, students and supporters crowded outside the north side of the Oklahoma State University Student Union Wednesday as OSU President Burns Hargis announced the university surpassed its $1 billion goal with its Branding Success campaign.
“It’s hard to believe that we started this about five and a half years ago and some questioned our audacious goal of $1 billion,” Hargis said. “To say they questioned is really a kind term. They really thought we were nuts.”
Hargis said most of the campaign, which began in December 2007, was conducted during a period of economic stress.
“But we’ve persevered and I’m thrilled to announce today and I never thought I would get to do this, we have exceeded 1 billion dollars!” he said.
The Branding Success campaign has raised $1,000,724,453. Hargis said more than 80,000 individuals and corporate partners have participated in the campaign. The campaign was announced publicly Feb. 26, 2010.
“There we said we wanted to make it possible for every student, who was willing and able, to attend OSU,” Hargis said. “And that would take scholarships and that was our top priority, $500 million in scholarships. Nearly 1,000 new scholarship funds have been created for students and that equates, actually, to thousands more individual scholarships because people rarely gave just one scholarship. That support will help many attend OSU.”
The success of the campaign has afforded OSU other opportunities as well, he said.
“We have created more than 130 new endowed faculty positions and it allows us to compete nationally and internationally for new faculty,” he said. “The campaign is allowing us to move forward on facilities that will enhance the experience, invest in the latest technology. In addition, I think we can say that our campus has never looked better and this campaign has helped that.”
Hargis thanked all who were involved with the Branding Success campaign, including co-chairs Ross and Billie McKnight.
“They have spent countless hours, made countless phone calls, have traveled all over this country,” Hargis said. “They have enabled us to see alums that we otherwise would not have been able to see and this campaign and its success in many respects was in their hands.”
Ross McKnight took to the podium, recalling his first memory with the OSU Foundation, the campaign and Hargis’ role.
“No one, no one could have brought us to this point without Burns’ leadership,” McKnight said. “And Burns couldn’t have even come close to doing it without Ann.”
He spoke of another supporter of the campaign, as well.
“The real thing that made this possible today more than anything was the philanthropic giant that we have at Oklahoma State University, who sets our pattern for us,” he said. “Because whatever we do at OSU, it’s following in this philanthropic giant’s footsteps.”
McKnight introduced philanthropist T. Boone Pickens to the stage.
“What an opportunity for me, and Billie and Ross, you’ve done an amazing job on this and when Burns told me, ‘We want to do a capital campaign and go for a billion dollars,’ I said, ‘What the hell. Let’s do it,’” Pickens said. “I didn’t doubt we could do it. I really didn’t. I thought this can all be accomplished.”
Pickens spoke of his financial gift in 2005.
“I wondered on this gift in 2005 that I made, I wondered if it was going to be let Boone do it or if it was an opportunity for everybody to play on the same team and we’d all do it together and that’s exactly what happened,” he said. “I have so many friends, people I’ve gotten to know since 2005 because of Oklahoma State. We come together.”
Pickens said he has met alumni everywhere he travels who tell him how proud they are of the university.
“That’s been the payoff for me,” Pickens said. “People asked me if I thought I’ve gotten my money’s worth and I’ve said, ‘Oh, hell yes. So many times. So many times.’ And I’m not through either.”
The Branding Success campaign will continue until Dec. 2014.
“Now, I’ll remind you that the first capital campaign that was done under President Halligan’s leadership in the early 90s was for $150 million but they raised $250 million,” Hargis told attendees. “So, if we can do the same ratio, I think we can get it done.”
Hargis said out of hundreds of universities, fewer than 40 have raised $1 billion or more.
“And we couldn’t have done it without all of your support,” Hargis said to those in attendance. “We had great support from our faculty and staff, the whole OSU family.”