One of the largest donations in the history of Oklahoma State University was celebrated Wednesday afternoon, as the announcement of the New Frontiers campaign will pave the way for the new Ferguson College of Agriculture.
Kayleen and Larry Ferguson gifted $50 million from the Ferguson Family Foundation. This will create a $25 million endowment and designate $25 million to begin a fundraising campaign. The New Frontiers campaign will raise a total of $50 million in private gifts. To date, about $30 million has been raised, including the portion of the Ferguson Family Foundation’s gift designated for the facility, commitments from several cornerstone donors who gave $1 million or greater, and additional silent phase donors.
Thomas Coon, OSU’s vice president for ag programs and the dean of the renamed college, said the new facility will go a long way toward having OSU be a leader in helping feed the world.
“Now we are ready for this capstone project, with New Frontiers,” Coon said. “I’m pleased to announce that today we launch a public campaign to raise funds in support of OSU agriculture and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. A campaign that will transform the way we teach, conduct research and carry out our extension programs. We must ensure future students and faculty have the resources they need to be national and international leaders in agriculture, food and natural resource sciences. We must ensure we are doing our part to alleviate hunger, restore and improve natural systems and ensure opportunities for people to have a healthy life.”
Coon said the current facility was opened in 1957 and was completed in the 1960s. He said it is no longer suitable for technology and safety standards for the 21st century, or for today’s teaching methods, which requires engaging students and learning methods that require active participation from students.
The new facility is expected to be located north of the Henry Bellmon Research Center on the east side of Monroe Street. The $100 million facility will feature an academic pavilion, student services pavilion and a laboratory pavilion. Coon said the new building will prioritize experiential learning in flexible laboratories and classrooms. He also said the goal of raising an additional $50 million is now two-thirds complete.
In attendance during the announcement were Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur, as well as numerous representatives and university donors and faculty. Stitt and Arthur are both OSU graduates, and discussed the importance of agriculture in Oklahoma.
“Agriculture is the second-largest industry in Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “We have a robust and diverse farm economy all across all 77 counties with over 78,000 farms located in Oklahoma. There’s over $42 billion in direct economic activity related to this agricultural industry. The agriculture industry in our state also employs over 300,000 Oklahomans that are truly feeding and fueling the world.
“The success and rich history of agriculture in our state is due in large part to this institution. I commend the university for the innovation, the teaching, the research and extension efforts that have been critical to the growth of our state. OSU really sets the entire pace for research in our state. In total, agriculture accounts for more than 40 percent of the research done at the university, and 85 percent of the revenue generated at OSU for patent and protected intellectual property, originates right here in the College of Ag.”
Arthur discussed how much the Ag Hall on OSU’s campus is a special place for her, having been an agriculture student at OSU herself. She said it has always felt like home to her, and that a new facility for future students will also serve as a home for students who go into the agriculture industry.
“When I think about a new Ag Hall, I think of the tremendous opportunities for students in our land grant institution,” Arthur said. “I look forward to students having a new place to call home, and hopefully one day, my two children will also call Ag Hall home. I look for it to be a place of cutting edge technology, and our top-tier faculty and staff guiding students on a path to success. I believe every student in the College of Ag, and every OSU Ag alum, is passionate about this university, but even more passionate about their ag degree. An ag degree from Oklahoma State is a golden ticket to career opportunities, and preparing students to be leaders and change makers in their communities.”
OSU President Burns Hargis said the new Ferguson College of Agriculture will serve as a beacon for research and preparing students for the industry.
“Not only will we have the right tools in place with this wonderful new building, but the Fergusons’ gift ensures we can always recruit and support the brightest minds in the world,” Hargis said. “That impacts the way we teach, the way we research and how we share that information with others through OSU Extension who will benefit from our findings. The Ferguson College of Agriculture will be a destination for researchers, professors and students. One can only imagine what discoveries will be made and how the world will change because of the work being done in OSU Agriculture.”
The Fergusons met as OSU students in 1975, and have already made a contribution at OSU that resulted in the Ferguson Family Dairy Center. The couple has now donated almost $55 million to OSU through their family foundation.
“Kay and I believe education is the way to solve the economic problems of our country,” Larry Ferguson said. “This gift is about more than just education. This is a way of helping feed the world. It is our sincerest hope that our fellow alumni will invest in the future of OSU Agriculture and join us in the New Frontiers campaign.”
The facility is set to break ground sometime in the spring semester of 2021, and will open in the fall of 2023.