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Groendyke’s lead gift establishes wildlife chair at OSU PDF  | Print |
Friday, 01 April 2011 16:24
John D. Groendyke, chairman and CEO of Groendyke Transport Inc., is giving $500,000 to Oklahoma State University to establish an endowment in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management.

John D. Groendyke, chairman and CEO of Groendyke Transport Inc., is giving $500,000 to Oklahoma State University to establish an endowment in the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management.

Oklahoma State University’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management is only three years old, but thanks to a generous donor, it has already taken a huge step toward its goal of becoming one of the nation’s best wildlife programs.

John D. Groendyke, chairman and CEO of Enid-based Groendyke Transport Inc., has committed $500,000 to make the lead gift for the Chair in Wildlife Conservation and Natural Resource Development within the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. It qualifies for matching funds from T. Boone Pickens’ 2008 challenge gift of $100 million for endowed faculty positions and the State Regents for Higher Education. The total fundraising goal is $3 million, which, with the matches, will create a total impact of $9 million in endowed funds. 

“John is a great friend of Oklahoma State University,” said OSU President Burns Hargis, who was in business school and Sigma Nu Fraternity with Groendyke at OSU. "He is passionate about wildlife conservation and natural resource development. This gift supports that passion and his alma mater in a special way. OSU is deeply grateful to John for this donation.”

Groendyke, a 1966 general business graduate who minored in animal science, has been the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s District 8 Commissioner for 34 years. He is also past president and chairman of the Grand National Quail Club and a Trustee for the Oklahoma chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

“I’ve always been interested in wildlife conservation,” Groendyke said. “That’s a place I think needs more money to spur more advancement. We hope this will encourage other people to give to this department and help OSU do some meaningful research in this area.”

Groendyke’s lead gift is an important step toward an even bigger endowment that will help the department maximize its potential. Not only will the endowment fund faculty positions to attract preeminent scholars from across the nation, but it will also provide scholarships and graduate fellowships to recruit the best students and a lectureship series that will bring in renowned scientists for presentations and seminars.

Dr. Keith Owens, head of the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, said NREM’s work will be important to the energy industry, which is huge in Oklahoma. One of the main focuses of this chair is the Lesser Prairie Chicken. It is in danger of joining the endangered species list, which would hinder wind-energy development because the best areas for wind turbines are the natural habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

“We want to be proactive and get someone in here to do the research that can provide answers about how wind-energy development really affects the Lesser Prairie Chicken,” Owens said. “By being forward-focused, we can help energy companies determine what kind of impact they are having on the environment and ecosystems. What is it about the habitat that we need to preserve? And what is it that the wildlife needs to succeed? We want to find ways that wildlife populations can be sustained and even increase as conventional and alternative energy is developed.”

Groendyke said many people recognize the Groendyke name from their transportation business, which began 79 years ago and has become one of the largest tank-truck carriers in the nation. But the family has also been active in farming and ranching, which makes natural resources and wildlife a natural area of interest.

“It is important that OSU have the financial resources to be able to conduct this type of research as we go forward,” Groendyke said. “It is important to protect not just the Lesser Prairie Chicken but also the Bobwhite Quail. If this research chair and Dr. Owens’ department can help bring that about, I think that’s good for all of us.”