ORANGE PASSION: President's Fellows
President's Fellows Offer Immediate Impact
A group of generous Oklahoma State University supporters are making a real difference at OSU. The members of the President’s Fellows each donate at least $10,000 annually to allow OSU President Burns Hargis to address the university’s unbudgeted needs andopportunities. Since its inception four years ago, participants have contributed more than $1.3 million to benefit OSU’s students, faculty and campus.
“We are extremely fortunate to
have dozens of households support
this program every year,” Hargis
says. “It provides unrestricted funding
to address OSU’s greatest needs,
including need-based scholarships,
student and faculty research, campus
beautification, equipment and diversity.
“The President’s Fellows are generously
helping OSU achieve greatness in ways
that would not be possible otherwise.”
He says one great example is the
acceleration of construction of the
Welcome Plaza, which has transformed
the southeast corner outside the
Student Union into a new gateway
to Oklahoma State University.
President’s Fellows Donor, Jennifer Grigsby
Jennifer Grigsby is one of the most
passionate supporters of the President’s
Fellows. The 1991 accounting graduate
is chairman of the OSU Foundation
Board of Trustees and past chair of
the OSU Alumni Association. She has
endowed scholarships for accounting
majors, veterinary medicine students and
third basemen on the Cowboy baseball
team. She was also the first donor to
the President’s Fellows back in 2013.
“I love this concept,” Grigsby says.
“There are obviously certain areas I’m
interested in, but generally we as alumni
and supporters have no way of knowing
the university’s most immediate needs.
I love that I write a $10,000 check
every year, having no idea where the
money is going, while being confident
that it will go where it is needed most.
“I have complete faith in President
Hargis. Every single day he sees
opportunities to make a difference
for a student, professor or program
and we give him the ability to quickly
seize those opportunities,” she says.
Each year, President’s Fellows
contributors receive a report accounting
for expenditures as well as an invitation
to a dinner at the president’s house
where recipients tell their stories.
“I love the immediate impact,” says
Grigsby, the executive vice president
and chief financial officer for Ascent
Resources, an independent energy
company based in Oklahoma City. “I
hear from deans and professors all
the time that immediate, unrestricted
funds are the most meaningful way to
support their schools.
As a donor, I
want to find ways to help OSU be better
and those opportunities may have
nothing to do with my specific passions
or involvement at the university.” Jennifer Grigsby, President’s Fellows donor
HELPING STUDENTS PURSUE THEIR DREAMS
The President’s Fellows Scholarship
Program is partially why Peyton Weiss
is at OSU. The Tulsa, Oklahoma,
freshman is one of more than 300
students who have received direct
financial assistance through programs
supported by the Fellows, including 49
who have received Fellows scholarships.
Peyton Weiss, President’s Fellows Scholarship Recipient
Weiss, a human development and
family science major, received the needbased,
$1,000 award, which became crucial after her father’s unexpected
death when she was in high school.
“When my dad died and mom went
back to work, it really increased the
importance of self-funding my education
and getting as many scholarships
as I could,” Weiss says. “The relief
of financial stress allowed me to get
all A’s my first semester and really
focus on my dreams and getting
experience through volunteering.”
Her goal is to become a labor and
delivery nurse after she graduates from
OSU. She is excited about the impact
nurses have on people’s lives. The
scholarship has allowed her the ability
to volunteer for Stillwater Medical
Center and get an early start on
boosting her résumé for nursing school.
“I’m so thankful for this and other
scholarships I’ve received. I’ve built up a lot of resiliency over
the past two years. Even though this
catastrophic, life-changing thing can
happen, miracles can happen. The love
and generosity of others can make it easy
on you when that pressure is put on you.” Peyton Weiss, President’s Fellows Scholarship Recipient
EMPOWERING FACULTY TO CHANGE EVERYTHING
Kaan Kalkan is working to
save the world with an assist
from the President’s Fellows.
Dr. Kaan Kalkan is researching ways to accelerate the breakdown of plastics in nature. He used a President’s Fellows Faculty Research Award tobuy this laser, among other things, to enhance his work. The award helped him secure additional funding to continue his important research.
The mechanical and aerospace
engineering professor is studying the
way plastics break down in nature. For
example, a plastic bottle lasts about 500
years. With $15,000 in seed funding from
the President’s Fellows, he is researching
which nanoparticles could accelerate
plastics’ decomposition in sunlight.
Kalkan’s Faculty Research Award
allows him to pursue larger federal
grants from organizations such
as the Gates Foundation and the
National Science Foundation.
“In the current low-funding-rate
landscape, green projects like this
are generally not funded by major
grants because the return is in the long
term. The funding agencies are also looking for projects
with proven feasibility or trend. The
President’s Fellows funding allows us
to start from scratch on an innovative
idea and get data credibility before
going for federal funding.” Kaan Kalkan, OSU Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Professor
Kalkan utilized the President’s
Fellows grant to hire a student research
assistant and buy a laser to simulate
the sun’s ultraviolet light. He presented
his preliminary findings at the San
Diego conference of the prestigious
American Chemical Society. And
he was able to purchase chemicals
to allow more lab work on various
polymers. Kalkan believes his work
could lead to a new generation of green
plastics that degrade in the sunlight.
“Plastics are really threatening our
planet,” Kalkan says. “For example,
post-consumer plastic waste in the U.S.
is more than 30 million tons per year,
and we only recycle about seven percent.
We burn another seven percent, which
creates a lot of pollution. The remaining
86 percent goes into landfills and oceans.
When fish eat plastics, they get toxic and
then we eat the fish. So, it comes back
to us. There are already plastic sand
beaches in the middle of the Pacific.”
Click here to learn more about the President’s Fellows and how you can get involved!