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Pickens tells OSU graduates age should never be a barrier to success

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Speaking at Oklahoma State University’s commencement ceremony Saturday, highly successful alumnus Boone Pickens told graduates not to let age stand in the way of achievement.

“You are young, and you have fresh ideas,” said the 77-year-old Dallas businessman, who now runs BP Capital, one of the nation’s most successful energy-focused investment funds. “You live in a new world and can teach all of us a thing or two.”

Pickens, a 1951 OSU geology graduate who previously spoke at OSU’s 1984 commencement, addressed an estimated 1,000 OSU graduates in two ceremonies at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Recalling his Depression-era upbringing in Holdenville, Oklahoma, Pickens described a few of his recent honors, including receiving the Horatio Alger Award, a national entrepreneurial honor, and being named to Forbes’ 2005 list of the 400 richest Americans with a net worth estimated at $1.5 billion.

“I tell you this not to brag, but to dispel something I hear over and over,” Pickens said. “‘Mr. Pickens, America has changed. I’ll never be able to accomplish what you have.’

“If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re dead wrong. There’s more opportunity for success today than ever."

Pickens founded and led Mesa Petroleum, which he grew into one of the nation’s largest independent oil and gas companies.

He told the students that perseverance and adaptability are required for accomplishment in any endeavor.

“Learn from mistakes. Remember the doors that smashed your fingers the first time and be more careful the next trip through,” he said.

Pickens’ final advice to OSU graduates “may be the most important: Be happy and satisfied with what you are doing. Life is too short. If you’re not happy, find something else to do.”

A lifelong philanthropist, Pickens described the joy he has received in giving to worthy causes. Citing goals for the university where the School of Geology and the football stadium bear his name, he asked future alumni to start thinking about their own contributions.

“What will it take to move us to the next level and make this a world-class institution, both in academics and athletics? OSU alumni, people just like you and me,” Pickens said, who has pledged more than $100 million to OSU. “This takes a team approach, and I want you on the team.

“You’ll be hearing from me. I promise.”

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