Beloved Oklahoma State University President announces plans to retire in 2021, looks back on 13 years with the college

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STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – A major announcement was made in Stillwater on Friday morning – President Burns Hargis is retiring after nearly 13 years of leading the university.

“To come back and be the president of my alma mater for a school that did so much for me is a real blessing,” Hargis said during his announcement. “Time marches on and I think you can stay too long. For one thing, I turn 75 next week.”

Hargis is one of OSU’s longest serving presidents. 

KFOR was there the day he toured the school after taking office back in March of 2008, and now he’s beloved across campus.

“It’s kind of bittersweet because you know that he’s announcing his retirement. It’s something that he wants to do because the people here love him so much,” said OSU senior Bailey Bretz.

“It’s like every experience I’ve ever had with him has been very positive, and especially with Mrs. Hargis. Seeing them at the basketball games and the smiles and everyone excited to see them,” said OSU senior Jalisa Reeves.

His tenure included big improvements on campus, including huge football stadium upgrades, a baseball stadium and a new performance venue.

But he was also there during times of heartbreak, including the homecoming parade tragedy and the 2011 plane crash that killed coaches from the women’s basketball team.  

“The interesting thing is that’s when the cowboy family really comes together. When we weep together, we support each other,” Hargis said.

When asked about his favorite memory, time with one person stuck out the most.

“There’s so many things with Boone Pickens that stick out. Mostly good. Every now and then he had a little criticism, but most of us never get the chance to really know a legend and work with a legend like Boone,” Hargis said.

Students on campus are sad to see him go, but hopeful for the next university president, who has some big Cowboy boots to fill.

“I wish him and his wife all the best. I mean, he made a huge impact on this campus,” said OSU student Devin Medrano.

“Go pokes,” Hargis said.

Hargis will officially retire in July of 2021. He says he wanted to give the university plenty of time to find its next president.

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