Special Olympics Oklahoma honors OSU President Shrum with Barry Switzer Award of Excellence
Friday, September 15, 2023
Media Contact: Sydney Trainor | Communications Specialist | 405-744-9782 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Special Olympics Oklahoma (SOOK) honored Oklahoma State University President Kayse Shrum as the 2023 recipient of the Barry Switzer Award of Excellence Thursday during the eighth annual Gold Medal Gala at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa.
The gala is Oklahoma’s premier event to celebrate people with intellectual disabilities and the Special Olympics movement in Oklahoma.
Bart Conner, a retired Olympic gymnast and 2022 SOOK recipient of the Barry Switzer Award of Excellence, Kearsty McCoy, a SOOK athlete, and ESPY-winning Ironman contestant Chris Nikic presented the award to Dr. Shrum. Switzer could not attend due to illness.
As a former director on the Special Olympics Board, Conner has seen the transformative power of the organization around the globe.
“I think about what's happening here in Oklahoma, and I look at the magic that happens right here, and a lot of it has to do with the goodness that happens at OSU,” Conner said. “Dr. Shrum, we're obviously thrilled to honor you tonight because that's the beauty of Special Olympics.”
As president of the OSU system, Shrum is an avid supporter of SOOK through the Chilly Cowboy, an event started in 2022 that benefits the organization. OSU athletes, coaches and administrators take a dip in cold water every year for the fundraiser, which was started by former OSU softball player Chelsea (Alexander) Fitzgerald. She approached Shrums with the idea of raising money for SOOK through a fundraiser, and Chilly Cowboy has raised over $80,000 in the last two years.
Chilly Cowboy also supports the new OSU Unified program. The first program of its kind the program brings Special Olympic athletes, faculty, staff and students together to compete in intramural sports all throughout the year.
OSU has a long history of working with SOOK. The university and the City of Stillwater have hosted the annual summer games since 1985 — the largest amateur sporting event in Oklahoma with nearly 4,000 participants in 2023.
“I believe I'm receiving this on behalf of a community of wonderful people at Oklahoma State University. I’m a huge believer in the mission of Special Olympics Oklahoma,” Shrum said. “I love that Special Olympics allows individuals with intellectual disabilities to have a place through sports to find their abilities and grow from them.”
Shrum was a pitcher for Connors State College and credits her participation in athletics with leading her to where she is today, growing her confidence and making her comfortable with facing challenges.
OSU’s land-grant mission is to graduate servant-leaders who humbly give of themselves to better their communities, improve society and steward the land and its people. As laid out in the systemwide strategy, OSU is committed to enriching the Cowboy culture by cultivating individuals who compete with integrity and excellence.
“At the very heart of our university is the Cowboy Code and that's really central to the values and the culture at OSU,” Shrum said. “There's one tenet that I would love to share with you. It’s part of the Cowboy Code and that is ‘Being a Cowboy isn't in our clothes, it's in our character.’ And part of the character of being a Cowboy is caring about others around you.
“When we say that we graduate servant-leaders, we mean it. We model that behavior through our actions and through the opportunities that we provide our students to engage in service. So, when a student brings an opportunity to us, we are so excited to support them.”
OSU is also the home to the Opportunity Orange Scholars program, which allows individuals with intellectual disabilities to live on campus and pursue a two-year, non-degree academic certificate in career and community studies.
“I would be remiss if I stood up here and acknowledged many people without saying thank you to student-athletes themselves,” Shrum said. “We are so grateful that you are a part of our community. You bring your courage, your joy and your enthusiasm, which brings a smile to our faces. So, thank you so much for being a part of Oklahoma State University.”