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 with the public phase announced Feb. 26, 2010, 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 success of the campaign has afforded OSU new opportunities, 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 and the campaign. 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 said he has met alumni everywhere he travels who tell them how proud they are of the university.
"People asked me if I thought I've gotten my money's worth and I've said, 'Oh, hell yes,'" Pickens said. "'So many times. So many times.' And I'm not through either."
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."