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T. Boone Pickens with Oklahoma State University students in 2006.

T. Boone Pickens: The Legacy That Transformed OSU

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

T. Boone Pickens was arguably OSU’s (and the state’s) most visible personality. His various endeavors and colorful demeanor have been chronicled on the covers of many magazines and by some of the most-watched television programs in the country.

During the span of his long career, Mr. Pickens created thousands of jobs and made billions of dollars — for others as well as for himself — and he wasn’t timid about spreading it around. 

“I like making money. I like giving it away … not as much as I like making it, but it’s a close second,” he often said.

The breadth of his philanthropy — which already approached $1 billion during his life — includes gifts to health and medical research, treatment and services; entrepreneurship; kids at risk; education and athletics, with a particular focus on his alma mater, Oklahoma State University; corporate health and fitness; and conservation and wildlife management. While many donations involved tens of millions of dollars and attracted headlines, hundreds more, ranging from several hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars also exist. Each was important in its own way.

The establishment of the T. Boone Pickens Foundation ensured his continued ranking as one of the nation’s top philanthropists. The foundation is improving lives through grants supporting educational programs, medical research, athletics and corporate wellness, at-risk youths, the entrepreneurial process and conservation and wildlife initiatives.

Mr. Pickens was a record-setting philanthropist. His $165 million gift to Oklahoma State in 2005 was the single largest gift for athletics in NCAA history, and his $7 million donation to the American Red Cross in 2005 was the largest individual contribution that organization had received. His unprecedented giving to athletics triggered a renaissance in OSU’s football program and was a key factor in its first Big 12 championship in 2011 and its first BCS Bowl win in the Fiesta Bowl matchup with Stanford in 2012.

On May 21, 2008, Pickens gave $100 million to endow major faculty chairs and professorships at OSU. The School of Geology already had his name from previous gifts.

Over the years, Pickens has donated $652 million to Oklahoma State, split virtually equally between athletics and academics. Supported by that 2005 gift, Pickens and OSU athletic director Mike Holder began acquiring the land that now houses OSU’s sparkling Athletic Village, which includes the Sherman Smith Training Center, the Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center, O’Brate Stadium for baseball and the university’s track and field facility. 

OSU launched its Branding Success campaign in 2010, and T. Boone Pickens again led the charge with a $120 million gift. 


MEDIA CONTACT: Monica Roberts | Director of Media Relations | 405-744-4800 |

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