Stillwater News Press


May 10, 2014

BURNS HARGIS: Academic year ends with inspiration

STILLWATER, Okla. — We completed the academic year with five commencement ceremonies this weekend that featured nearly 3,500 graduates receiving diplomas.

The most emotional and inspirational commencement moment came when we presented the final diploma of the weekend to zoology major Mary Beth Davis during the College of Arts and Sciences commencement ceremony Saturday afternoon.

Mary Beth is paralyzed from the waist down from a car accident four years ago. She walked across the stage to receive her degree thanks to INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation and an Ekso Bionics suit. Mary Beth plans to spend a year promoting her platform of health and nutrition as Miss Wheelchair Oklahoma 2014 before entering OSU’s veterinary college.

The commencement speaker for Saturday’s three undergraduate ceremonies was OSU grad Dr. Tererai Trent. She is one of our most amazing and inspiring graduates. A native of Zimbabwe, she overcame tremendous obstacles to earn bachelor and master’s degrees from OSU and then a Ph.D. Oprah Winfrey named Dr. Trent her “all-time favorite guest.”

Tererai shared the story of her struggle to get an education in her home country and her efforts to provide girls there the same privilege. We were pleased to award Dr. Trent an Honorary Doctors Degree of Humane Letters.

Her remarks and all our commencement ceremonies were streamed live and will be available on OStateTV.

Looking to the future, we are pleased to announce four new OSU leaders.

Dr. Gary Sandefur is our new Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs.

He is a native Oklahoman from Madill and comes from the University of Wisconsin where he has served as Dean of Letters and Science. He is a member of the Chickasaw Nation.  

Dr. Thomas Coon, who has been at Michigan State University, is the new Vice President, Dean and Director of the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

He will oversee all activities related to academic programs, research and extension.

Dr. Ken Eastman was selected as Dean of the Spears School of Business.

He has been at OSU since 1989 and had been serving as Interim Dean. Dr. Keith Garbutt is the inaugural Dean of the OSU Honors College, after serving in the same role at West Virginia University.

We will take the Sandefur and Eastman appointments to the Board of Regents for approval next month. The Board approved Coon and Garbutt in April. All four will start in July.

We appreciate the great leadership provided by Dr. Pam Fry, who served as Interim Provost and will continue in her role as Associate Provost.

We also thank Dr. Mike Woods, who was a very effective interim head of agriculture.

And, we wish Dr. Robert Spurrier a long and happy retirement and appreciate his leadership of the Honors College.

OSU has created the National Energy Solutions Institute (NESI) to address challenges across the energy spectrum.

This spring we were pleased to announce a new partnership between NESI and Stillwater-based Smart Energy Source (SES), a partnership of Central Rural Electric Cooperative, engineering firm Guernsey and OSU. The joint venture is pursuing greater operating efficiencies for consumers and the utility industry.

The NESI-SES Association was formed to expand membership in SES, as well as tap NESI’s innovative research. CoBank, the Oklahoma Association of Electrical Cooperatives and Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative are already on board.

We look forward to our summer programs and an exciting start of a new fall semester.

Go Pokes!

Burns Hargis is the president of Oklahoma State University.


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