My wife, First Cowgirl Ann, and I have been truly blessed to serve Oklahoma State University. This has been the most rewarding times of our careers. We will miss the incredible energy of our campus.
As we end our more than 13 years at OSU, we want to extend a huge thanks to the leadership and citizens of Stillwater. We have accomplished much together. The city and university have a long, successful partnership that has created one of America’s best college towns.
I also want to thank state leaders throughout my years at Oklahoma State for their support and commitment to higher education. They have prioritized the state’s universities and colleges while making difficult funding decisions for the people of Oklahoma.
The most recent example is fulfilling the promise to fund the state’s innovative and transformative match program for endowed chairs.
Funding is the biggest challenge facing Oklahoma higher education institutions and the state dollar-for-dollar match program, signed into law 35 years ago by OSU alumnus and then Governor Henry Bellmon, incentivized donors to “partner” with the state to attract and retain high-achieving faculty.
The program worked so well that the state was forced to cap it in 2008. Right before the cap took effect, the late Boone Pickens gave a $100 million challenge match to Oklahoma State University that ignited an outpouring of giving. Boone’s gift demonstrated the power and potential of the state match program, but it also was a significant addition to a backlog.
This spring, state leaders addressed the backlog and gave a huge boost to Oklahoma higher education.
The endowed chair program strengthens faculty recruitment initiatives by providing a consistent source of investment to support our professors in their teaching, research, and service activities in critical disciplines such as energy, engineering, agriculture and medicine.
In turn, the program, especially the investment in research, will contribute to the development and advancement of our state’s economy. And it attracts students through stronger academics and broader opportunities.
There are many people to thank for this momentous bill: Governor Kevin Stitt, Speaker Charles McCall; President Pro Tem Greg Treat; the appropriation chairs and vice chairs in the House and Senate, Senators Roger Thompson and Chuck Hall, and Representatives Kevin Wallace and Kyle Hilbert; and the Senators and Representatives who supported the bill.
I end my time as OSU president knowing the state’s higher education institutions are in a better position today because of the wise action of Oklahoma leaders.
I also depart knowing that Oklahoma State’s future is bright under the leadership of its new president, Dr. Kayse Shrum. She is poised to guide the university to continued success. Go Pokes!
Burns Hargis is retiring as Oklahoma State University President on July 1.