Work continues on new home for OSU Agriculture
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
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Cornerstone Donors and others celebrate groundbreaking of new $100 million building
This spring, Oklahoma State University celebrated the groundbreaking for the new home of OSU Agriculture. Though rain forced the April 23 event indoors, the weather did little to dampen the excitement as more than 350 people, including many donors, gathered for one of the first in-person events on campus during the spring semester.
“This pandemic slowed down a lot of things over the past year, but it did not slow the momentum for the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall,” then President Burns Hargis said at the event. “Our Ferguson College of Agriculture friends and alumni are among the most loyal in the Cowboy family.”
The facility will strengthen OSU Agriculture’s research, teaching and Extension missions, while addressing two key challenges: attracting and retaining scientific leaders and equipping collaborative teams with state-of-the-art laboratory and field facilities. It will redefine what is possible for OSU Agriculture’s faculty, students, and the industries and communities that depend on OSU’s important research.
“This project is going to help us position our faculty and our students in facilities that will equip them with the skills, knowledge and the ability to work together in order to help solve world hunger. It’s as simple as that,” said Dr. Thomas G. Coon, OSU Agriculture vice president and dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture.
Oklahoma State is already affecting change in terms of addressing world hunger. OSU recently received high marks from The Times Higher Education, which ranks universities on how well they address the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
"This project is going to help us position our faculty and our students in facilities that will equip them with the skills, knowledge and the ability to work together in order to help solve world hunger. It’s as simple as that."
Overall, OSU ranked eighth in the U.S. and 85th in the world in addressing all 17 goals set by the United Nations. OSU ranked second in the U.S. and 10th in the world in addressing the goal of eliminating hunger by the year 2030.
“The Ferguson family has connected OSU with their family’s goal of helping to feed the world, and this ranking shows that we’re making progress,” Coon said of lead donors Kayleen and Larry Ferguson and the Ferguson Family Foundation.
“With these new investments in our programs represented by the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall, we’re going to expand our impact even further in helping to end world hunger.”
The couple committed $50 million to OSU Agriculture in January 2020, and Hargis announced the gift during a special event launching the New Frontiers campaign about a month before the COVID-19 pandemic forced spring 2020 classes online.
Half of the funds will create an endowment to support operations at the Ferguson College of Agriculture, and the other half will contribute to the $50 million fundraising goal for the new facility, which is scheduled to open during the 2023-2024 school year.
The Fergusons said they wanted to inspire others to invest in education and the future of OSU Agriculture, and they’ve done just that.
At the groundbreaking, they ceremoniously shoveled dirt on stage next to other Cornerstone Donors who have given $1 million or more to the project. As of this magazine’s printing, more than 375 donors have committed more than $45 million in private funds to the project. Many of them attended the April 23 celebration, where donors were met with a standing ovation. Coon said the reception was a striking reminder of the level of dedication and commitment present in the OSU Agriculture family.
"The entire event was energizing and really helped build even more momentum for the campaign,” he said.
Larry and Kayleen Ferguson echoed the sentiment, saying it was meaningful to meet other people passionate about OSU Agriculture.
“The number of donors and participants present shows the importance of this project for the future of not only OSU, but also the campaign to help feed the world,” they wrote in an email. “Putting actual faces with donor names is so inspirational. Hearing their backgrounds and interests shows the diversity the New Frontiers campaign brings to OSU and the future around the world. We cannot wait to see the building and programs come to life with professors, students and families.”
Jered and Lindsey Davidson were so moved by the event that they pledged $25,000 to the project days later.
“The groundbreaking is what pushed us over the edge in the decision to make a gift. It was the excitement for the great future the college has planned,” Jered said. “We felt like it was our duty as alumni to make a commitment … We know the great investments the college made in us.”
Jered earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics in 2009 and was selected as the college’s outstanding senior. Lindsey earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural leadership in 2010 before she added a master’s degree from OSU in 2015. In addition to working as an attorney, Jered serves as the president of the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation. Lindsey works as the digital manager for OSU Agricultural Communications Services, and, until recently, had her office in the now-razed Agriculture North building.
“One unique impact is that the university has torn down my wife’s office building to make room for the new building, but it’s symbolic of the consistent change that we’ve witnessed from our time in the mid-2000s to now. The university is continuing to make great strides forward,” Jered said. “We talked about gifts of all different amounts, but we knew that our dollars could really go further earlier. If we can put the college and the students of tomorrow in the best position we can today, why would we wait to start our philanthropy years down the road?”
Dr. Cynda Clary, associate dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture, said it was meaningful to see so many people invest in the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall.
about the New Frontiers campaign and how you can get involved by contacting Heidi Williams at 405-385-5656 or hwilliams@OSUgiving.com
“It’s really a privilege and honor for our students and faculty to know that there are people who they have never met who are investing in their future,” she said. “We are so appreciative of what all of these people have come together to do as donors. They believe we can not only make a better Oklahoma, but a better United States and a better world.
“They’re really making a commitment to serving people right and meeting their needs … and that’s what their gift does. It makes it possible for us and inspires us to explore new things and be able to make a bigger contribution.”
Photos By: Todd Johnson
Story By: Amanda O'Toole Mason | STATE Magazine