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One of Oklahoma's most noted philanthropists, Gene Rainbolt has been an active supporter of higher education for more than three decades. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services)

OSU honors Gene Rainbolt as a 2018 DASNR Champion

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources has honored noted philanthropist and banker H.E. “Gene” Rainbolt as a 2018 DASNR Champion award recipient.

The DASNR Champion award recognizes individuals with exceptional records of providing meaningful and lasting benefits to Oklahoma as part of the state’s production, processing and related agricultural industries, in addition to being outstanding leaders in their communities and supporters of OSU’s land-grant mission.

“Throughout his career in the banking industry, Mr. Rainbolt remained dedicated to providing tools and resources for young people to gain a strong education, while believing in the state of Oklahoma and the value of the land-grant mission to help improve the quality of people’s lives,” said Mike Woods, head of OSU’s department of agricultural economics.

A visionary for rural Oklahoma, Rainbolt has been an avid supporter of the department, from student scholarships to establishment of the H.E. “Gene” Rainbolt Endowed Chair of Agricultural Finance in honor of OSU President Burns Hargis, which focuses on promoting the sustainable financial success of Oklahoma farmers, ranchers and agribusiness operators.

Rainbolt told the media in 2008 that he and his family made the endowment gift for many reasons, not the least of which had been how his career had led him to be involved with a number of banks located in primarily agricultural areas of Oklahoma, and he wanted to see those rural towns flourish.

“He made it a point to add how the triggering event had been Burns Hargis accepting the presidency at Oklahoma State and his belief Hargis would be incredibly effective for OSU and the state of Oklahoma,” Woods said. “He also spoke about the influence of James Plaxico, retired OSU professor and former head of the department of agricultural economics, and a BancFirst board member; as well as Norm Durham, who served as dean of OSU’s Graduate College from 1967 to 1991.”

It is an investment that has paid dividends for the department, the division, the university and all of Oklahoma, Woods added.

“Mr. Rainbolt once declared OSU’s agricultural economics major to be the strongest degree offered in the state, high praise from one of his stature in the financial industry,” he said. “We agree, of course, and recognize that part of the program’s success over the years has been because of his generosity as an advocate and ally.”

Rainbolt also has been an active supporter of the OSU Spears School of Business and the university’s Wes Watkins Center for International Trade and Development. But nobody should assume his belief in a quality education stops with OSU’s Stillwater campus.

“Mr. Rainbolt has hired a number of OSU graduates, specifically agricultural economics majors,” Woods said. “His legacy at BancFirst continues to be felt today in that BancFirst remains an active sponsor for many DASNR and university programs, conferences and workshops, such as the Oklahoma Rural Economic Outlook Conference at OSU.”

Raised during the Dust Bowl, Rainbolt graduated from Norman High School in 1947. He earned both his bachelor’s degree in economics and master’s degree in finance from the University of Oklahoma. The Norman native then attended the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin. After graduation, he served as an Army officer during the Korean War and was honored with the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal for his service.

It was 1967 when Rainbolt began his banking career with Federal National Bank in Shawnee. By 1989, his United Community Corporation had consolidated 12 banks under a single charter and officially renamed the company BancFirst. Today, he remains active with the bank, serving as chairman emeritus while his son David serves as chief executive officer.

“Gene Rainbolt has been one of Oklahoma’s most noteworthy philanthropists through the years, and we are blessed to have him as a DASNR Champion,” said Tom Coon, OSU vice president of agricultural programs. “It was a great honor to be able to recognize his support during the Oct. 19 DASNR Honors ceremonies.”

DASNR is comprised of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and two state agencies: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and the statewide Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system.

By Donald Stotts

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