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OSU president Burns Hargis and Dr. Kayse Shrum, along with Darren Shrum and Shrum's kids, talk to the media at The McKnight Center.

President Designee Shrum meets with media

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Media Contact: Monica Roberts | Media Relations Director | 405-744-4800 | monica.roberts@okstate.edu

When Dr. Kayse Shrum first visited Oklahoma State University, becoming president of the university wasn't on her mind.

She was 13 and attending a softball clinic in Stillwater, years from starting an illustrious medical career and decades from becoming the first woman to lead OSU. 

Shrum looked back on that journey Tuesday afternoon at The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts in a conversation with current OSU President Burns Hargis and the media. 

The OSU/A&M Board of Regents announced Shrum, the head of the OSU Center for Health Sciences, as the 19th president late Friday night.

“I recognize the historic nature of this and the fact that almost immediately I have a following of a lot of women and that a lot of little girls want to take pictures with me,” Shrum said. “I recognize that it is a challenge. It is not easy to have a family and a career. I hope this moment inspires a lot of women to dream big, and if you want to have a family and a career, it is possible." 

Shrum, a native of Coweta, Oklahoma, didn’t know what she wanted to do academically at Connors State College in Warner, Oklahoma, during her undergraduate years. One day, one of her professors asked her if she had thought about medical school.

“He said, ‘You know you have the highest grade in the class, and you should really consider medicine as a career,’” Shrum said. “So I did.”

Initially, Shrum was unsure about the focus of her medical aspirations, but "knew" that she didn't want to go into pediatrics. She went on to specialize in pediatrics and became enthralled with children.

“Kids have been a big part of my life, so I always say, 'Be careful what you think you know,’” she said.

Her path to having a family and one day being a mother of six started with a trip to a Walmart in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, nearly 30 years ago. That is where she met Darren. They soon married. The couple have three biological children — Colton, Kyndall and Karsyn — and three adopted sons from Ethiopia — Joseph, Kilientn and Kason. All of their children are between the ages of 19 and 24.

“I was in medical school, and we were really considering having a family,” Shrum said. “I had a series of miscarriages, and at that time, we were really thinking that we needed to think differently about how we would have a family. We started thinking at that time about adoption. I went on to have three children, but adoption was still in my heart.”

The Shrums decided to adopt from Ethiopia when they learned about the many orphan boys there who were in need of a good home.

“I always told people that we wanted to open our home and bless these kids,” Shrum said. “But honestly, we have been blessed beyond measure.” 

Colton, the couple’s oldest son, aims to graduate from OSU in May with a university studies degree before law school at the University of Oklahoma. Kyndall is also graduating in May from OSU with degrees in university studies and agriculture. Carson is studying business administration at Northern Oklahoma College.

Kilientn is studying business and marketing while Joseph is in the zoology pre-med program, both at OSU. Shrum said Kason wasn’t present at the event because he had to study for a history test. 

Kyndall said the news that their mother was going to be the next president of OSU thrilled the family.

“It is awesome that we have this amazing mother who has done so much for us,” Kyndall said. “It is amazing. It is surreal. It doesn’t even feel like it is happening.” 

Darren, who has had a long career in pharmaceuticals and entrepreneurship, graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in the mid-1980s. He will be the inaugural "First Cowboy," taking over from First Cowgirl Ann Hargis. 

“[I'm] definitely looking forward to it. The First Cowgirl has given me the lay of the land and what to expect,” he said. “It is such a huge opportunity. I think what I am looking forward to most is interacting with the students. I can’t wait to get involved.”

Darren had some high praise for his wife, describing her as "loyal and true." 

“I think the best word to describe her is humble,” he said. “She is what you get. She has always been that way and never changed. She is a ball-cap-and-jeans type person. She is down to earth and always remembered where she came from.”

 Shrum said she is looking forward to hitting the ground running when she takes over for Hargis on July 1.

“What I would love to continue moving forward is focusing on academic excellence and growing our academic programs and research,” Shrum said. “Really creating and continuing to build on human experience.

“There has been so much momentum ... I can come in and build upon the great work that is going on.”

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