Burns Hargis retires as OSU President

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STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – Oklahoma State University President, Burns Hargis has announced his plans to retire from the position of head cowboy.

In a news conference Friday morning, President Hargis said he will be retiring and it will become effecting July 1, 2021.

Burns Hargis was named the 18th President of Oklahoma State University and the OSU System in December 2007 and took office in March 2008.

“Ann and I have been blessed and honored to serve Oklahoma State University the past 12-and-a-half years. The opportunity to be president of my alma mater exceeded all my expectations. OSU is a special place. It is where I found friends who became family for a young man who lived in many different places growing up. I received an excellent education, preparing me for my careers in law and banking, and culminating at OSU as president. Ann and I are grateful for the faith and trust extended to us by the Regents and the support from faculty, staff, students, and alumni. There remains much work to be done, and in that regard, I look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead, and welcoming a new president next summer,” Hargis said.

Among those he thanked he wanted to take the time to mention his wife, Ann and all she contributed to the university during his tenure. Listen below.

Hargis, who holds degrees in accounting from Oklahoma State University and in law from the University of Oklahoma, is the second OSU graduate to lead the university as president.

OSU contains more than 35,000 students, 7,000 employees, and campuses located in Stillwater, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Okmulgee.

He has guided OSU to record enrollment and record fundraising. In total, OSU has raised more than $1.7 billion in private support and added 67,000 new donors during Hargis’ time as president.

He has held several leadership positions, serving on NCAA, Football Bowl Championship and Big 12 Conference boards.

During his time at the head of America’s Brightest Orange, he oversaw the University’s first-ever billion dollar fundraising campaign.

Enrollment grew and boasts five of the largest freshman classes in the history of OSU.

The University also reports developing more than 2.5 million square feet of new or enhanced facilities on its Stillwater and Tulsa campuses.

During his tenure, OSU has faced several hardships and tragedies, including a plane crash that killed 4 and a homecoming parade incident that also killed 4 and injured dozens of others.

Before being named OSU President, Hargis was known to many Oklahomans through the political perspective he provided on the award-winning television program “Flashpoint.”

Hargis has served as vice-chairman of the Oklahoma State Election Board, the Oklahoma Constitutional Revision Commission, and served as Chairman of the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services. Hargis was also a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of Oklahoma in 1990.

Hargis received the state’s highest honor when he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2009. Hargis and his wife, First Cowgirl Ann, have two married children and three grandchildren.

Moments after the announcement the OSU/A&M Board of Regents Chair, Rick Davis said there would be a national search for the next president.

“President Hargis has led OSU and the system through a time of historic growth and change for nearly 13 years. He seized many opportunities to transform our campuses, academic programs, and research endeavors while confronting many challenges, the latest being the COVID-19 situation. His continued leadership over the next several months will ensure we can conduct a purposeful, wide-ranging process to find the right person who can build on the current momentum and lead OSU for years to come,” Davis said.

Below are statements of congratulations on the retirement and many accomplishments for OSU under Hargis’ leadership the past 13 years.

“Oklahoma State has seen incredible growth and success under the guidance and leadership of Burns Hargis. Cowboys will miss his steady leadership. America’s brightest orange shines because of the work,  dedication, and pride he and Ann have for the entire OSU community. Burns will leave OSU better after his season of leadership, and he leaves a remarkable legacy for the University. On behalf of all Oklahomans, thank you Burns and Ann.”   

U.S. Senator James Lankford

“My sincere congratulations to Burns Hargis today upon announcing his plans to retire next year as president of Oklahoma State University. Along with First Cowgirl Ann Hargis, Burns has overseen an extraordinary resurgence at OSU during the past 12 plus years and has been a transformational leader. As a graduate of OSU, I am proud of my alma mater and as governor, I am grateful to both Burns and Ann for their exceptional service.”

Kevin Stitt, Governor of Oklahoma

“Burns Hargis has been a transformational president at Oklahoma State University. He has also been a tireless and effective advocate for higher education and the life-changing value of a college degree. I have always appreciated his personal counsel and wish him and Ann the very best.”

Chancellor Glen D. Johnson, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

President Hargis has had an exceptional tenure as President of Oklahoma State University. His achievements in education are consistent with his contributions in banking, the law, and in public policy. He is a valued and preeminent alumnus of the University of Oklahoma College of Law and is a tremendous ambassador for the state of Oklahoma these many years. He’s rightly beloved by proud Cowboys everywhere, and our entire state owes him deep thanks for his service to higher education in Oklahoma. Burns is a friend, and I count myself fortunate to have served alongside him. My heartfelt congratulations to you, Burns, on a well-earned retirement!

OU President Joseph Harrox, Jr.

“For 13 years, Burns Hargis has truly exemplified what it means to be an OSU Cowboy and a believer in a brighter orange. Under the leadership of President Hargis, Oklahoma State University has expanded the possibilities and opportunities for hundreds of thousands of students- further cementing itself as a flagship university for higher education,” said Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03). “From his first day on the job, Burns steered OSU on an ambitious course, ushering in new investments and providing transformative resources not just for Oklahoma State University but for the entire state of Oklahoma. As an OSU alum, I couldn’t be prouder to know that the plains of Oklahoma is now a destination for the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and doers. To President Burns Hargis and Ann, thank you for setting OSU up for success for the next 130 years.”

Congressman Frank Lucas

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