STILLWATER, OKLA – The nine-member OSU/A&M Board of Regents voted unanimously to select Oklahoma civic and business leader V. Burns Hargis as the 18th President of Oklahoma State University (OSU) and the more than 32,000-student OSU system. The Board of Regents met in a special meeting this morning in the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center on the OSU-Stillwater campus.
Selected after a comprehensive national search, Hargis was previously referred unanimously by the 33-member Search Committee. The Regents formed the OSU Presidential Search Committee to ensure a broad and inclusive process. The committee was composed of representatives from several key constituencies of OSU and the OSU System including faculty, students, staff and alumni.
“Burns Hargis is a distinguished civic and business leader and, as a graduate of OSU, has tremendous respect for our land-grant heritage and our statewide mission,” said Lou Watkins, Chair of the OSU/A&M Board of Regents. “His passion for OSU and his leadership, energy, and extensive national network of civic, political, and business leaders superbly prepares him for the challenges and opportunities inherent in the President’s Office. He is the right leader at the right time to keep OSU and the System moving forward in a bold manner especially regarding expanding support for all-important academic and research initiatives which will benefiting our faculty, students, and state.”
Hargis’s selection represents only the second time in the history of OSU that an OSU graduate will lead the State’s University as its President. Oliver S. Willham, who served as OSU President from 1952 to 1966, established the OSU Foundation, and oversaw a major expansion of the campus that included the addition of 19 new buildings, graduated from then Oklahoma A&M in 1923.
“Burns Hargis will do a great job leading Oklahoma State University,” said Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry. “He’s well respected in both the public and private sectors and has the vision and intellect to take OSU to even greater heights in the state’s second century. More than anything, Burns loves his alma mater and he will work harder than anyone to see that it succeeds at all levels. I think he will be a perfect fit for OSU.”
Hargis graduated from OSU with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting in 1967 and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma Law School in 1970. He was a candidate for the Republican nominee for Governor of Oklahoma in 1990. For the past 10 years, he has served as Vice Chairman of Bank of Oklahoma. He practiced law for 28 years and is recognized in the publications “Who’s Who in American Law” and “The Best Lawyers in America.” He also served as Chair of the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services. He is a former member of the OSU/A&M Board of Regents and a former member of the Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with Burns Hargis in his new role as President of Oklahoma State University and the OSU System,” said Glen D. Johnson, Chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. “I am confident his extensive experience in education, politics, business and philanthropy combined with his extraordinary communication skills will further energize the momentum at OSU.”
In remarks after he was introduced by the Board Chair Lou Watkins, Hargis said he was both honored and humbled at being chosen as the next President of OSU and the System. “I love this university. It means so much to me and I want to see it excel and succeed on all fronts,” he said. “I am grateful for the confidence shown in me by the Board of Regents and the Search Committee and I look forward to championing initiatives aimed at furthering academic quality and research excellence. OSU and the System must be competitive in academics, research, and athletics. We should always aim to be the very best in everything we do and we must never lose sight of the fact that students are most important and providing them with a rich and rigorous learning environment should always be our top priority.
Hargis continued, “I look forward to working with the faculty as a partner to support them in their endeavors to define and deliver educational excellence. I believe cooperation and collaboration always yield the best results. Input and ideas from the faculty as well as staff and students will be welcomed and encouraged. I value our faculty’s important academic role and will indeed work with them and our outstanding Provost, Dr. Marlene Strathe, to pursue much needed funds for academics.”
Dr. Marlene Strathe, who has served as Interim President of OSU since March 1, 2006, will continue in that position until Hargis is eligible for employment as President of OSU. State law prohibits a state board or commission from employing a former member until at least one year has passed since the member’s term of office expired or the member’s resignation. Hargis resigned from the Board of Regents in July.
“Dr. Strathe has done an incredible job leading OSU during this interim period,” Watkins said. “We are grateful she accepted the added responsibilities and we appreciate her leadership in making sure everything continued to move ahead in a smooth and efficient way.” Dr. Strathe will remain as Interim President during this transitional period and will resume her position as Provost and Chief Academic Officer when Hargis becomes the President.
Hargis said he would depend upon the leadership and experience of Dr. Strathe as the Provost and Chief Academic Officer for OSU. “Dr. Strathe is an outstanding academic leader who has rightfully earned the admiration of the academic community at OSU. I can assure you she will play a prominent role in my administration.”
“I have enjoyed serving as Interim President,” Dr. Strathe said. “We have continued to accomplish a great deal the past several months including breaking ground on a number of new buildings on campus for instructional and research endeavors. I look forward to working with Burns Hargis to boost OSU particularly as it relates to advancing academic programs and opportunities for our students. I also want to thank the staff in the President’s Office for their assistance and support.”
Dr. Robert Miller, Chair of the OSU Faculty Council and a member of the Search Committee, said, “There is no doubt Burns Hargis loves this university. He will be an excellent and effective spokesperson and advocate for OSU. We are very pleased he recognizes the value of Dr. Strathe to this university and will rely on her to administer the academic area.”
Bank of Oklahoma Chief Executive Officer Stan Lybarger said, “This is an exciting opportunity for Burns and we know this move will be good for both OSU and for the state of Oklahoma. He has been an important part of our success and we’re pleased he will remain part of the Bank of Oklahoma family by serving on our board of directors. Mark Funke, who has been the president of Bank of Oklahoma-Oklahoma City for the past 10 years and contributed greatly to our success, will serve as the market chairman.”
The compensation arrangement for Hargis will be finalized and reported closer to when he is eligible for employment. Hargis said he and his wife, Ann, who have been married for 38 years, will move to Stillwater and live in the Willham House, which is the university-provided home for the OSU President. The Hargises have two married children and three grandchildren.
The OSU/A&M Board of Regents is the governing board for OSU in Stillwater and the OSU System which includes the OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences in Stillwater, OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, OSU-Tulsa, OSU-Oklahoma City, OSU-Okmulgee, the Cooperative Extension Service, the Agricultural Experiment Station, as well as Langston University in Langston, Connors State College in Warner, Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami.