Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis will retire on July 1 after leading the university for 13 years, he announced Oct. 23 during an OSU/A&M Board of Regents meeting in Stillwater.
Hargis became OSU’s 18th president on March 10, 2008. He is the second OSU graduate to serve as president of the university. His tenure has been marked by record-setting fundraising, enrollment growth, new and enhanced facilities, and a growing national reputation for academic and research advances.
“This has just been the time of our lives. Ann and I have absolutely loved it. It exceeded all of our expectations,” Hargis said. “We just want to thank the entire Cowboy nation for the love and support that you have provided us. I know the best is yet to come for Oklahoma State.”
Under Hargis’ leadership, OSU has flourished, including the university’s first-ever billion-dollar fundraising campaign, Branding Success, which raised over $1.3 billion. As of fall 2020, OSU had raised $1.2 billion during the Hargis years. OSU has developed more than 2.5 million square feet of new or enhanced facilities on its Stillwater and Tulsa campuses. Enrollment growth includes five of the largest freshman classes in OSU’s history. Of all the graduates over OSU’s 130-year history, OSU has increased Alumni Association membership by nearly 30 percent and added nearly 82,000 new donors. The OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa has garnered national attention and seen significant growth in enrollment, research, fundraising for capital projects, student scholarships and medical research.
“Oklahoma State University is stronger today than at any time in its 130-year history due to the historic leadership of Burns Hargis,” said Rick Davis, chair of the OSU/A&M Board of Regents. “We are grateful beyond words for the dynamic leadership and dedicated service of both Burns and Ann. It isn’t easy to quantify their influence and impact. They have been immense and at the top in instilling genuine pride in our Cowboy heritage, values, culture and land-grant mission.”
Ann Hargis has thoroughly enjoyed her time at OSU as well.
“It has been my privilege and pleasure to be the OSU First Cowgirl,” she said. “The ride has been terrific, and the education has been beyond my wildest dreams.”
President Hargis said he feels blessed and honored to have been given the opportunity to serve his alma mater.
“OSU is a special place. It is where I found friends who became family for a young man who lived in many different places growing up. I received an excellent education, preparing me for my careers in law and banking, and culminating at OSU as president. Ann and I are grateful for the faith and trust extended to us by the Regents and the support from faculty, staff, students, and alumni. There remains much work to be done, and in that regard, I look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead, and welcoming a new president next summer.”
Hargis modernized the Stillwater campus with premier academic and athletic facilities, including the Henry Bellmon Research Building, the ENDEAVOR Engineering Lab, a new home for the Spears School of Business, The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts, a North Wing expansion for the Human Sciences Building, the OSU Museum of Art and residential halls. A new facility to house the Michael and Anne Greenwood School of Music is under construction and expected to open in the fall semester of 2021. A new teaching and research facility for OSU Agriculture and the Ferguson College of Agriculture is also preparing for a groundbreaking this spring. These developments reflect Hargis’ vision to improve the student experience with an enhanced campus infrastructure for the modern landgrant university.
“First Cowgirl Ann Hargis is a beloved presence on the OSU campus,” noted Regent Davis. “Burns and Ann are a remarkable team. Ann’s focus on creating America’s Healthiest Campus® and her nationally recognized pet dog therapy program have enhanced the student experience and broadened her impact beyond the campus.
“Burns has worked from the beginning to make sure an OSU education was accessible and affordable regardless of a student’s financial circumstances. Burns has worked tirelessly to raise money for scholarships and financial aid for students.”
In Admirers' Words
"Congratulations, Burns and Ann! You have earned many times over a happy and enjoyable retirement. You have done wonders during your presidency. You have demonstrated that a President (and First Cowgirl) must love the university to be truly effective. A job well done!!"
"As an ancient graduate of OSU, ’53 & ’55, I’ve watched from afar and you’ve together moved the university into national prominence. I am most proud to say that I am a graduate of Oklahoma State University."
"Thank you, Burns and Ann, for dedicating your life to OSU. I worked at OSU for 20 years under four presidents, and you by far were the most passionate/ charismatic."
"Burns, I will miss your ever-smiling face. Thanks for all your hard work and dedication. Your fellow Sigma Nu brother,"
"Dear President and Mrs. Hargis, I wish both of you the best of health and enjoyable life upon your planned retirement. I have witnessed your extraordinary and many contributions to OSU and very helpful personal nature to us all, which will be remembered far into the future."
"Congratulations, Burns and Ann, for 13 years of monumental success as President and First Cowgirl of OSU! Your leadership has been a remarkable example of determination, grace and good old Cowboy spirit to more folks than you can imagine. Your presence in Stillwater will be soooo missed!"