Bigger Pockets. Bigger Heart.

With two $100 million gifts, Boone Pickens launched a movement.

When T. Boone Pickens graduated from OSU in 1951 with a degree in geology, his father reached out with a gesture of congratulations. T. Boone recalls, “I had it in my head that he might give me $300. Well, instead, he stuck out his hand and said ‘Good luck.’ And I thought: welcome to the real world. Then I got back to work.” Armed with little more than his own determination and skill, a powerful work ethic, and an OSU degree, Pickens went on to build a remarkable career as an oil executive and entrepreneur. His generosity toward Oklahoma State University is driven by a focus on the future—and insistence on results. Pickens’ has made two separate transformational $100 million donations to Branding Success – one in May 2008 for endowed faculty positions and another in October 2009 benefitting student scholarships. But with mammoth gifts come mammoth expectations. Pickens sought to leverage his gifts to inspire giving among all OSU donors and utilized his own donations toward challenge matches. With a potential $400 million investment toward Branding Success’ billion dollar goal, Pickens’ competitive desire to make Oklahoma State University “the best” in every vein complements his commitment to do his part. This unwavering loyalty positions him as OSU’s Ultimate Cowboy.

Read more about the Pickens Legacy Scholarship Match here »

A Fireside Chat with T. Boone Pickens

OSU: What motivates your support for Oklahoma State University?
Pickens: It’s simple. I’m thinking about the students at Oklahoma State today. We can make it so they’re not restricted to doing any one thing. OSU is providing the preparation that says: you can tap straight into what’s beautiful about America. You can take whatever bite of the apple you want. And the opportunities, given OSU’s location and positioning in terms of booming fields like energy research, are tremendous. I’m happy to be a part of that.

OSU: Why is a $1 billion campaign the right move for OSU right now?
Pickens: We’re going into the most exciting period this university has ever seen. In five years this university will have transitioned from a very good school to competing with the best in the world. I don’t make such claims lightly. I like results, and I am very confident in what I see happening at OSU.

OSU: Burns Hargis assumed the presidency of OSU in March of 2008. What does President Hargis bring to Oklahoma State?
Pickens: Burns has a great vision for the University. He knows what he wants to do, and he’s going to make something happen at OSU. This campaign for a billion dollars would not have been possible even five years ago. And before another five years is up, I expect Burns will have accomplished this and much more as president of OSU.

OSU: Several years ago, you made a gift of $165 million to the athletics program. What should people understand about why you chose to invest in athletics at that time?
Pickens: You might say the athletics program is the front porch of any university. I certainly believe that. It gets coverage in the papers. When we win, people talk. Research tells us a winning season actually boosts [admissions] applications and so forth. But it goes deeper than that, to the core of your attitude: if you intend to compete, you must commit. There’s no halfway about it. That holds true for football and it holds true for academics.

OSU: In June 2008, you challenged OSU supporters to give to endowed professorships and chairs, and you matched their gifts out of your own $100 million commitment. Within six weeks, donors came forward with an additional $68 million. Why are endowed professorships and chairs so critical?
Pickens: If you want to be the best, you need to hire the best. Researchers and teachers doing important work require a consistent source of funding support—and that’s just what an endowed position promises. Going from 101 endowed positions to more than 275 in just six weeks is the type of thing that is only dreamed of at the world’s most promising institutions. We didn’t dream it—we did it.

OSU: What’s on the horizon for OSU?
Pickens: I think we’ve learned a lot in the last three or four years. We’ve learned how to handle success in many things. The one that stands out the most is what you see happening everyday which is athletics. I’m not an athletics-only guy; I’m for a total university. Our donors and fans are very happy seeing what’s happening at OSU. We may be the best in a lot of things, and we feel very comfortable about how we’re progressing, which is good. The sky’s the limit for what we will achieve moving forward.

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