OSU planning Celebration of Life ceremony for T. Boone Pickens
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
The event will be streamed live at OState.TV
Oklahoma State University is mourning the loss of longtime benefactor and Oklahoma State alumnus T. Boone Pickens. The renowned businessman passed away Sept. 11 at the age of 91. A “Celebration of Life” is scheduled for 3 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 25 in Gallagher-Iba Arena. Speaking at the event will be OSU President Burns Hargis, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Coach Mike Gundy, OSU benefactor Anne Greenwood and Athletic Director Mike Holder.
The event is open to the public.
“All of us in the Oklahoma State University family are deeply saddened by the passing of Boone Pickens,” OSU President Burns Hargis said. “At the same time, we join in celebrating his incredible life. He was the ultimate Cowboy. It is impossible to calculate his full impact on Oklahoma State. His historic gifts to academics and athletics not only transformed the university, they inspired thousands of others to join in the transformation. OSU will not be the same without the legendary Boone Pickens, but his mark on our university will last forever.”
Pickens started his college career at Texas A&M University on a basketball scholarship. When it failed to renew his $25-a-month basketball scholarship, Pickens transferred to OSU (then Oklahoma A&M). A member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Pickens graduated from OSU in 1951 with a degree in geology. He worked for Phillips Petroleum until 1954. In 1956, Pickens founded several business entities that would ultimately become Mesa Petroleum and grew the company into one of the largest independent oil companies in the world. After leaving Mesa Petroleum in 1996, Pickens went on to found BP Capital. By 2002, he was a billionaire. At the time of his death, however, Pickens was far from billionaire status, having dedicated the majority (and then some) of his fortune to philanthropy, the largest benefactor being his beloved alma mater.
Over the course of his life, Pickens donated more than $650 million to Oklahoma State,
split between academics and athletics. A substantial gift made the Boone Pickens School
of Geology possible. In 2008 when BP Capital’s stock crashed and Pickens encountered
devastating losses, he stood by his commitment to OSU. In times of feast or famine,
Pickens’ word and optimism never wavered.
OSU athletic director Mike Holder said it was in 2008 when the character behind the businessman was clear.
“He was there in the best of times,” Holder said. “Sure, everybody is. But in the worst of times, that’s when he stood tall.”
His most visible gift led to the renovation of the stadium that bears his name and the creation of an athletic village that includes the Sherman Smith Training Center, the Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center, O’Brate Stadium for OSU baseball and OSU’s track and field facility. Until his health declined, Pickens could be found at nearly every football game — home or away — cheering on the Cowboys.
“Mr. Pickens is a big part of our success, and we’re all thankful for the lasting impact he’s had on Oklahoma State, both athletically and academically,” said OSU football coach Mike Gundy. “It would have been difficult for us to climb as high as we have without him. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has had a greater impact on a university than Mr. Pickens has had at Oklahoma State. He’ll be missed, but his legacy here will live on for a long time to come.”
Pickens’ childhood home was moved to OSU’s Karsten Creek Golf Club. He will be laid to rest nearby in a private ceremony.
“The greatest Cowboy of them all has taken his last ride,” Holder said. “It will never be the same again. We could never thank him enough for all that he did for our university. He gave us everything he had and all that he asked in return was that we play by the rules and dream big. He was living proof that anything is possible if you’re wearing orange. Great ride Cowboy, great ride!”
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