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Burns Hargis retires after 13 years at OSU

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OSU President Burns Hargis Waves Goodbye

President Burns Hargis and First Cowgirl Ann Hargis wave to the crowd at the annual Homecoming Parade in 2018.

Editor's note: Burns Hargis’ name was misspelled in Friday’s edition. The O’Colly regrets the error. This story has been updated with the proper spelling.

Burns Hargis, Oklahoma State University’s president since 2008, announced his retirement Friday during a Board of Regents meeting. A source close to the president confirmed this information to The O’Colly Thursday afternoon. The retirement is effective July 1.

Hargis, 74, will retire with 13 years of service to the university. He is the 18th president of the university and is the second OSU graduate to serve as president.

“Ann and I have been blessed and honored to serve Oklahoma State University the past 12-and-a-half years,” Hargis said in a press release. “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' list of accomplishments with the university is long, including banning tobacco use on campus, induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and the dramatic advancement of several campus buildings such as the Spears School of Business. He also saw record-setting fundraising and enrollment growth during his tenure.

In all, OSU raised $2.2 billion during Hargis’ run as president.

The rise of the business building is one of the president’s most notable achievements during his reign in office. The $72 million, 147,500 square foot building was instrumental in expanding the possibilities for the students who learn in its 13 state-of-the-art classrooms.  

Under his watch, the campus has seen many developments including, The Mcknight Center for the Performing Arts, the Greenwood School of Music, ENDEAVOR Laboratory, O’Brate Stadium, Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center and the Neal Patterson Stadium.

“My standard comment whenever we build a new building, whether a stadium or any new building on campus, is that the facilities don’t transform things, people do. But it’s the facilities that enable people to reach full potential,” Hargis said in an interview in 2019.

On March 3, Hargis was awarded The Journal Record’s Legacy Award, which recognizes individuals for making an impact on Oklahoma through their work. In December of 2015, Hargis received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Leadership Oklahoma. In 2013, Hargis and his wife, Ann, received the Jasmine Award for extraordinary service to the youth of Oklahoma.

Hargis runs one of the nation's most comprehensive land grant systems, with campuses located in Tulsa, Stillwater, Oklahoma City and Okmulgee. He’s also worked on three different NCAA entities. 

“Oklahoma State University is stronger today than at any time in its 130-year history due to the historic leadership of Burns Hargis,” OSU Board of Regents chair Rick Davis said in a press release.“We are grateful beyond words for the dynamic leadership and dedicated service of both Burns and Ann. It isn’t easy to quantify their influence and impact.  They have been immense and at the top in instilling genuine pride in our Cowboy heritage, values, culture, and land-grant mission.”

news.ed@ocolly.com