Historic gift brings OSU's College of Agriculture new name and vast future growth

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STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – A historically large donation will transform Oklahoma State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources in both scale and name.

The Ferguson Family Foundation is giving $50 million to the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

“Pending approval next week from the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents, the college will be renamed the Ferguson College of Agriculture in recognition of the gift, which is among the largest in OSU’s nearly 130-year history,” an OSU news release states.

The gift will establish a $25 million endowment for the college’s operations. The other $25 million will kick-start a fundraising campaign for an “innovative” research and teaching building, according to the news release.

The massive donation was announced by OSU alumni Kayleen and Larry Ferguson and university officials Wednesday during an event launching the New Frontiers capital fundraising campaign for the planned facility.

The New Frontiers campaign aims to raise $50 million in private support the for the planned teaching and research facility, which is estimated to cost $100 million. Construction is targeted for spring of 2021.

The $50 million will have far-reaching benefits for all of OSU, as well as the agricultural and natural resource economies of Oklahoma and the region, according to OSU President Burns Hargis.

“Not only will we have the right tools in place with this wonderful new building, but the Fergusons’ gift ensures we can always recruit and support the brightest minds in the world. That impacts the way we teach, the way we research and how we share that information with others through OSU Extension who will benefit from our findings,” Hargis said. “The Ferguson College of Agriculture will be a destination for researchers, professors and students. One can only imagine what discoveries will be made and how the world will change because of the work being done in OSU Agriculture.”

Dr. Thomas G. Coon, OSU’s vice president for agricultural programs and dean of the renamed college, said the Ferguson College of Agriculture will emerge as a leader in agricultural and natural resource programs across the country and around the world as a result of the support and development that the $50 million will provide.

“This project will change and modernize our research and the way we teach scientific subjects. It all goes back to the premise of being a modern, land-grant institution,” Coon said. “Research has the promise to change the way we grow food and care for the natural environment we rely on. It can transform Oklahoma’s economy, fostering innovation that will feed a growing world.”

Kayleen and Larry Ferguson said the gift is an extension of their faith, belief in education and love for OSU.

“We have a responsibility to the betterment of future generations,” Kayleen Ferguson said. “You have to work hard, but you have to pass it on as well. It’s not yours to keep. It’s not yours to hold onto. It’s yours to pass on.”

Larry Ferguson is the retired president and CEO of Schreiber Foods, the world’s largest employee-owned dairy company, and Kayleen is a retired educator who primarily taught English. They said OSU was the foundation for much of their success.

“I would never have become CEO without coming to Oklahoma State and going through the program here,” Larry Ferguson said. “Kay and I believe education is the way to solve the economic problems of our country. This gift is about more than just education. This is a way of helping feed the world. It is our sincerest hope that our fellow alumni will invest in the future of OSU Agriculture and join us in the New Frontiers campaign.”

The Fergusons have given OSU nearly $55 million through the Ferguson Family Foundation.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, an OSU alumnus, was present at Wednesday’s announcement. He said OSU sets the pace for research in Oklahoma.

“The agriculture industry in our state also employs over 300,000 Oklahomans that are truly feeding and fueling the world,” he said. “The success and rich history of agriculture in our state is due in large part to this institution and what it means to our state … I commend the university for the innovation, for the teaching, the research and the extension efforts that have been critical to the growth of our state.”

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture and OSU alumna Blayne Arthur said the new facility will help agriculture students attain their potential.

“An ag degree from Oklahoma State is a golden ticket to career opportunities and preparing students to be leaders and change makers in their communities,” she said. “We have something very special here at Oklahoma State in our ag program. We expect success and turn out top-tier students. We have some of the best students in the world who will go out and change the face of agriculture but also the business world.”

Take a look at the above photo gallery to see photos from the announcement.

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