STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – Hundreds of current and former staff, administration and community members gathered into historic Gallagher-Iba Arena for a celebration of Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis Friday ahead of his retirement. Some federal and state leaders also showed up to celebrate the university’s outgoing president.
Burns Hargis and his wife Ann were introduced on stage to cheers from the crowd for a celebration 13 years in the making.
“It’s a testament to his leadership and his skills and all the things that he’s brought to OSU,” said Jaden Kasitz, a current student and member of the OSU Student Government Association. “Our mission, it’s perfectly embodied in President Hargis. He is what it means to be a cowboy.”
Hargis was an Oklahoma State graduate and took his first steps on campus as the president of the university in March of 2008.
“This was my first community,” Hargis said. “I just kind of grew up here and learned I love serving, and I’m so glad I got the chance to give something back.”
Current and former students said they were excited to celebrate everything he’s done.
“I think he moved us in the right direction in many ways,” said Ladd Hudgins, an OSU grad from 1966.
During Hargis’s tenure, the university raised a total of $2.2 billion. The university also developed 2.5 million square feet of new facilities.
“I really look up to him and hope to be like him one day,” Kasitz said.
There were huge upgrades to Boone Pickens Stadium, a new baseball stadium and a new performance venue for the fine arts. Hargis was also there for the cowboy family during heartbreak. This includes the homecoming tragedy when a woman plowed through crowds of people with her car at a homecoming parade and a plane crash that killed coaches for the women’s basketball team.
Hargis also received recognition from OSU graduates Gov. Kevin Stitt and U.S. Congressman Frank Lucas.
“I’m proud of what you’ve done,” said Lucas, the U.S. Representative for Oklahoma’s Third Congressional District. “Thank you, Mr. President.”
“I’m so proud of what you’ve done for my alma mater, but also for the entire state of Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “So, Oklahoma State will always be in your debt.”
“Go pokes,” said Hargis and his wife Ann at the end of the celebration to a standing ovation.
The university announced in early April that Dr. Kayse Shrum will take over as the school’s 19th president. She will be the first woman to lead a public research institution in the state of Oklahoma.
As for what’s next, Hargis said he and his wife will not be involved with the university as much as they normally are. However, he said he plans to be involved in the school’s leadership institute.