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The 2021 Commencement Ceremonies were held at Boone Pickens Stadium for the first time in 15 years.

OSU celebrates classes of 2021 and 2020 with historic commencement

Saturday, May 8, 2021

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

The 142nd Oklahoma State University commencement returned to Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday for the first time since May 2006, when U.S. President George W. Bush was the commencement speaker. 

This time it was OSU President Burns Hargis delivering the commencement address as he presided over his last graduation as president — a historic occasion nearly a year and a half in the making. 

Nearly 4,000 graduates were recognized, 18 percent from the Class of 2020, which didn’t have an in-person graduation celebration last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commencement is usually held inside Gallagher-Iba Arena, but the ceremony — the first since December 2019 — was moved outdoors to allow for COVID safety precautions. 

Hargis gave advice to the students in his folksy way, telling graduates to be happy, enthusiastic, persistent and unafraid to fail. 

“Henry Ford said there are two types of people: those that think they can and those that think they can’t and they are both right,” Hargis said.

Hargis commended the perseverance of the students throughout the past year and said he and his wife, First Cowgirl Ann Hargis, will miss getting to see them every day.

Burns Hargis spoke at his 27th and final commencement as OSU president.

“Every graduating class at OSU is special, but this class is extra special,” Hargis said. “You guys have navigated through the global pandemic, had to learn unlike students before you and made face masks a fashion statement.”

OSU/A&M Board of Regents chair Rick Davis introduced Hargis, an OSU alumnus whose own graduation commencement back in 1967 was also held outdoors at then Lewis Field. Davis acknowledged the historic nature of the event.

“Our board clearly recognizes that it has been a difficult and challenging time to provide an educational environment,” Davis said. “We want to pause and thank our administration, faculty and staff for all you have done this past year in terms of dedication, sacrifice and persistence in allowing us to be here today.”

Davis praised Hargis’ leadership, under which OSU accepted 51,000 new freshmen, conferred 70,000 degrees and added 81,000 new donors.

“Because of [Hargis’] transformative leadership, this institution and our OSU community is in a far better place than when he arrived almost 13 years ago,” he said. 

Hargis will be succeeded by Dr. Kayse Shrum, who had two children of her own graduate Saturday morning from the Ferguson College of Agriculture. Hargis applauded Shrum and all the mothers in attendance for Mother’s Day weekend.

Clayton Hicks, who earned his bachelor’s degree in agribusiness, said he was excited to finally have an in-person ceremony again. A native of Ponder, Texas, he will continue his education at OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“It is kind of indescribable,” Hicks said. “I am glad that we actually got to have a commencement ceremony. 

“I am thankful the school was willing to put it in Boone Pickens and allow us to still walk. That is a memory I will probably have for the rest of my life.”

Jennifer Litchfield, who earned two degrees in mechanical and aerospace engineering, said it was different being outside dealing with the weather, but she enjoyed it.

“We had rain, we had sun, we had everything in between,” said Litchfield, who is from Midwest City, Oklahoma. “But it was special and being able to do this in general during the pandemic is exciting. Being able to see your friends and family up in the stands was really nice.”

Saturday morning’s exercises recognized students from the Ferguson College of Agriculture and the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. The afternoon consisted of ceremonies for the Spears School of Business, College of Arts and Sciences along with the College of Education and Human Sciences. 

Graduate students and College of Veterinary Medicine students had their ceremonies Friday. OSU-IT celebrated commencement on April 20.

OSU-Tulsa will have its graduation on Monday with the OSU Center for Health Sciences and OSU-OKC having their ceremonies on May 15. More information can be found on the commencement website.

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