Oklahoma State University was presented with the Keep Oklahoma Beautiful Collegiate Award for the transformation of an unsightly area into the Welcome Plaza. The space connects the entrance of the Undergraduate Office of Admissions in the Student Union with the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center across the street.
Steve Dobbs, landscape services manager for facilities management, said the area was once an “unsightly turf strip with a dead spot running the length of it” and poorly designed sidewalks to boot. Kyle Wray, OSU vice president of enrollment and brand management, could see this plot of land from his office window in the Student Union and envisioned an opportunity with incredible potential.
“He encouraged us to dream big and make a ‘wow’ first impression in our concept and design,” Dobbs said. “He emphasized this was the front door of the campus for so many visitors and prospective students.”
The final product has become one of the most photographed areas on campus, where students stop to pose, making the “pistols firing” sign, to celebrate joining the Cowboy family.
OSU alumnus Dave Brown, a landscape architect in facilities management, created the plan to symbolically greet every visitor. The featured attractions in the plaza are statutes of a mare and her colt, the bronze embodiment of parents watching a child leave their sides to blaze a trail into the next chapter of life. Surrounding the display is a horseshoe-shaped sidewalk and native buffalo grass. A saddle sitting atop a fence features a John Wayne quote, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
Wray said the idea for the plaza was to create a space visitors would be drawn to.
“At the same time we wanted to communicate a tenet of the land grant mission,” Wray said. “The grasses and trees are native to this area. The landscape and the horses, named Proud and Immortal, remind us of the Oklahoma prairie and the Cowboys’ ethics required to succeed there. Those same ethics allow students to succeed academically at OSU and in life.”
The group that made the major contribution for the project was The President’s Fellows.
Keep Oklahoma Beautiful is a statewide non-profit that serves all 77 counties. It’s a state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful.