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Burning desire: Hargis prepares for post-retirement life

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OSU President Burns Hargis poses for a portrait in Old Central.

President Burns Hargis couldn’t help himself.

When asked about how his final semester as Oklahoma State University's president was going, he immediately chimed in with his signature wit.

“You mean my lame duck time?” Hargis said.

With this being one of Hargis’ least daunting work-related semesters, many assume the 76 year old will ride off into the sunset and live the rest of his days with few responsibilities.

According to Hargis though, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Everybody tells me ‘you’ll be as busy or busier,’” Hargis said. “I’m looking forward to that because I’m not good at sitting around.”

Hargis said he will continue to work for OSU at the university’s center for ethical leadership and will help introduce the new president to new donors and legislature.

Hargis and his wife Ann plan to live in Oklahoma City, where he plans to return to his pre-OSU duties as civic life leader in the community.

Before starting his tenure as OSU’s president in 2007, Hargis served multiple terms as chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, where he headed an $11 million Forward II Fundraising drive. He also raised support for a light rail system in the city.

Oklahoma City Business Roundtable president Mark Funke, who sat next to Hargis’ desk for 10 years while the two were in banking, expressed the city’s excitement to have Hargis return

“I think everyone in Oklahoma City is excited to have Burns back in our community,” Funke said. “He is not a guy who believes retirement is a casual opportunity. He will always continue to be a voice for causes he believes in.”

While Hargis still plans to work in three prominent positions, he anticipates –– and is excited for –– less stress in his post-president career. This lack of pressure allows him and Ann to return to one of their favorite hobbies: travelling.

“We’ll be able to do trips that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do,” Hargis said. “Stay longer than we otherwise would. We used to go to Taos, New Mexico, every summer. So this year we’ll probably stay longer than we normally do. Normally we have to get back to school in August.”

He has a travel wishlist too, with countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and nations in the western part of Africa at the top.

As it stands now though, Hargis still has six months of OSU president work before he officially retires. While his work schedule has been easier and interaction with students has been diminished, he’s still enjoying his retirement tour from the OSU community.

“I had a lot of nice comments made, a lot of nice things written about me, which I appreciated,” Hargis said.

Aside from the ceremonial parts of the retirement tour, Hargis also sees a light in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic and his students. Above all, he wants to see the pandemic dwindle away during his final days.

“We’ve got the vaccine coming, hopefully we’ll get out of this smog,” Hargis said.