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Symposium emcee Julia Benbrook (left) and keynote speaker Lauren Bush Lauren.

Honoring Philanthropy and Scholarship: WOSU Symposium returns to GIA

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 |

Returning to Gallagher-Iba Arena for the first time since 2019, the 2022 Women for OSU Symposium drew a crowd of more than 500 Cowboy faithful — along with a large virtual audience — to celebrate philanthropy and scholarship at Oklahoma State University.

Women for OSU is comprised of a diverse group of women who share a passion for inspiring leadership and financial support to OSU. On April 28, the symposium brought the Cowboy community together as it recognized former First Cowgirl Ann Hargis as the 2022 Philanthropist of the Year. Hargis, who served as OSU’s first lady for 13 years, exemplifies the true meaning of philanthropy, said OSU President Kayse Shrum.

“It wasn’t just her time and passion, but she also gave to the things that were important at Oklahoma State University, and really that’s what philanthropy is,” Dr. Shrum said. “Someone who is willing to give and invest in other people. That is what she did here as the First Cowgirl at OSU.”

Also among the honorees were 15 outstanding student scholarship recipients. The scholars — undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students — study various disciplines at OSU including medicine, education, agriculture and business.

Lauren Bush Lauren served as the keynote speaker for the event. She is the creator and CEO of FEED — a global, socially conscious clothing brand committed to feeding the children of the world — and great-granddaughter of former President George H.W. Bush as well as daughter-in-law to fashion icon Ralph Lauren.

The packed venue was beautifully decorated and hosted an engaged crowd after an exclusive livestream event in 2020 and a more intimate gathering with a livestream option in 2021.

“We are grateful to have the OSU family together again in Gallagher-Iba,” said Jayme Ferrell, director of Women for OSU at the OSU Foundation. “We are thrilled to host a large crowd, as well as a virtual audience that celebrates the remarkable work of so many at OSU. Thank you to our sponsors for providing this wide reach so that we can share inspiring philanthropic work.”

Women for OSU recognized its second group of Partnering to Impact grant recipients. The program aims to support unbudgeted projects across campus that benefit health and wellness, education, campus beautification or arts and culture.

The inaugural 2021 class featured four recipients, but thanks to the growing number of Partners — those who give a minimum of $1,000 annually to the Partnering to Impact Fund or $500 annually for those younger than 35 — six grants were awarded this year.

“Partnering to Impact has been wildly successful due in part to its mission to connect the Women for OSU’s passions with tangible and meaningful ways to impact the university,” Ferrell said. “Through this initiative, their financial impact continues to grow while Women for OSU has been able to move forward with its philanthropic efforts within the OSU community.”

OSU-Oklahoma City’s Fridays are for Careers is a 2022 Partnering to Impact grant recipient. OSU-OKC Director of Recruitment and Admissions Brandee Morgan developed the program to improve the accessibility of higher education and career exploration for Oklahoma City high school students. The program invites students to the OSU-OKC campus where they experience a higher-education environment first-hand, learn about various career programs and work with faculty despite any financial or transportation barriers.

“This grant gives us the opportunity to reach out to students so they can start seeing themselves as being capable of going to college and putting themselves in those careers that they never thought they would ever be able to do,” Morgan said.

The 2022 Women for OSU Scholars.

Dr. Alexis Smith Washington, associate professor and senior inclusion officer at the Spears School of Business, and Sarah Teague, manager of outreach programs and the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship, created LeadHERship Spears, another 2022 Partnering to Impact grant recipient. The program’s goal is to increase programming specifically designed for female students in the Spears School of Business.

“We devised LeadHERship Spears as a cohort-based program so that a select group of female students would be poured into with additional resources and training, so that not only do they walk away with the fundamentals of business — they walk away with polish, professional savvy and a network,” Washington said.

Teague said she believes LeadHERship Spears will make a difference.

“This is our chance to make an impact for these women,” Teague said. “It’s an opportunity for Spears to really dig in and provide this culture.”

Washington said she felt deeply honored to receive the grant and is grateful for the impact mentorship and scholarship will have on these students’ lives.

“Thank you to the Women for OSU. This is going to provide such a rich opportunity for women at Spears and the 10 recipients of our scholarship. I know they are going to be over the moon,” Washington said.

Feeding the World

As keynote speaker, Lauren shared her passion to end child hunger, which coalesced after her first trip abroad serving as an ambassador for the World Food Programme — the food-assistance branch of the United Nations.

She visited a therapeutic feeding center tasked with treating severely malnourished children. At the center, a mother placed her crying little boy into Lauren’s arms. Lauren thought the boy was about 3 years old, but later learned he was 7.

The experience changed her life.

“Hunger is so often this faceless, abstract, overwhelming issue,” she said. “I’ve been able to meet so many people and so many families abroad and here in the U.S. who struggle to make ends meet. I think that’s been part of my wanting to start FEED.”

As a former model and fashion student, Lauren uses FEED to combine her love for design and passion to combat hunger. FEED’s mission is to create products that help feed children around the world, with each clothing item sold providing meals to hungry children globally. Over nearly 15 years, FEED has given more than 120 million meals.

For Lauren, FEED strikes the right balance between personal fulfillment and transformational, philanthropic work.

“If you can make a career out of something you like doing that also gives back to make the world a little bit better, then that is obviously very much a path worth pursuing,” she said.

Recognizing OSU’s initiatives to tackle food insecurity, Lauren encouraged collaboration to end world hunger.

“I am so grateful to be with you guys and to be able to share my story and my journey, and also to be really inspired by you and what you’re doing,” she said to the audience. “Hopefully, together, we can move from a world that needs FEED to a world that is well-fed and well-nourished.”

The event also included the announcement of the 2023 Women for OSU Symposium keynote speaker — Elizabeth Smart. Smart is an abduction survivor, author, activist and communicator for hope after tragedy.

Ann Hargis: 2022 Philanthropist of the Year

Former First Cowgirl Ann Hargis, who served Oklahoma State University for 13 years alongside President Burns Hargis, is the 2022 Women for OSU Philanthropist of the Year.

Ann Hargis
Ann Hargis and her dog, Scruff

Her love and care for the Cowboy family has left a lasting impact as she was instrumental in creating the America’s Healthiest Campus initiative and turning OSU into a leader in university wellness. In 2013, she co-founded Pete’s Pet Posse, which has grown to become the largest university pet therapy program in the country.

“Ann’s generosity and passion for helping others has left a long-lasting imprint on our university,” OSU President Kayse Shrum said. “We share a love of dogs, and Ann took that love and turned it into a gift for the campus with Pete’s Pet Posse. I am so grateful for her dedication to making an impact on the lives of our students.”

In 2021, Women for OSU surprised Ann by establishing the Ann Hargis OSU Center for Pet Therapy Endowment. Once the endowment is fully funded, it will secure the long-term future of the center, where she continues to be involved today.

She and Burns also established an endowed professorship and made the OSU leadership scholarship possible.

Her love for the arts has transformed the OSU cultural experience as the Hargises have made considerable contributions to The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts, the Doel Reed Center and the OSU Museum of Art.

“As First Cowgirl, she was a pioneer of initiatives on campus,” OSU Foundation President Blaire Atkinson said. “Those are projects she led with her time, her talent and her incredible intellect, but also her philanthropy. She is very generous.”

Ann was awarded an honorary doctorate at OSU in 2019 for her work in the area of wellness and improving the lives of others. She continues to be an active and engaged member of the community, making contributions to a wide variety of philanthropic organizations in Stillwater and throughout the state.

“We had no idea the gift we’d been given all those years ago when she enthusiastically came on board as first lady,” said Diane Tuttle, former Women for OSU councilwoman. “In all situations, she exemplifies how a person should live their life. She is the epitome of an energetic, caring and generous person.”

Ann’s long-lasting impact on OSU is one of service and love.

“There are people who are loved and people who are beloved,” said Kendria Cost, director of the Ann Hargis OSU Center for Pet Therapy. “She is definitely beloved.”

Inspired by the OSU community, Ann emphasized the importance of philanthropy.

“The whole idea of a philanthropist is that you take what you have and come out of yourself to be able to give to others,” she said. “A philanthropist is someone who gives back — from the tiniest, kindest gestures through the multimillion dollar donors and everything in between.”

Photos by: Chris Lewis

Story by: Samantha Hardy | STATE Magazine

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