FROM THE PRESIDENT
THE FINAL WORD
T. Boone Pickens left us some last words of wisdom.
Editor Mack Burke Managing Editor Dorothy L. Pugh
Art Director Chris Lewis
In his 91 years, Boone Pickens packed in a lot.
Photographers Gary Lawson, Phil Shockley and Benton Rudd
A LIFE WELL-LIVED
Designers Chris Lewis, Benton Rudd, Michael Molholt and Lauren Knori
His ability to turn a phrase was unmatched.
STATE magazine is published three times a year (Fall, Winter, Spring) by Oklahoma State University, 305 Whitehurst, Stillwater, OK 74078. The magazine is produced by the Office of Brand Management, the OSU Alumni Association and the OSU Foundation, and is mailed to current members of the OSU Alumni Association. Postage is paid at Stillwater, OK, and additional mailing offices. Magazine subscriptions are available only by membership in the OSU Alumni Association. Membership cost is $45.
STARTING WITH GEOLOGY The school that granted his degree was the one that garnered his earliest support.
LOSING A FRIEND Boone Pickens was a lot of different things to many people, but he was a confidant, mentor and best friend to OSU athletic director Mike Holder.
Writers David Bitton, Mack Burke and Shannon Rigsby
Call 405-744-5368 or mail a check to 201 ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center, Stillwater OK 74078-7043. To change a mailing address, visit orangeconnection.org/update or call 405-744-5368.
Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Higher Education Act), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, genetic information, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices or procedures. This provision includes, but is not limited to admissions, employment, financial aid and educational services. The Director of Equal Opportunity has been designated to handle inquiries regarding nondiscrimination policies. Contact the Director of Equal Opportunity at 408 Whitehurst, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 740781035; telephone 405-744-5371; or email email@example.com. Any person (student, faculty, or staff) who believes that discriminatory practices have been engaged in based on gender may discuss his or her concerns and file informal or formal complaints of possible violations of Title IX with OSU’s Title IX Coordinator at 405-744-9154.
Honoring the Ultimate Cowboy We are honored to present this special edition of STATE magazine dedicated to the Ultimate Cowboy, Boone Pickens. T. Boone Pickens was a legend, a change agent, a life force that rarely comes along. Oklahoma State University is riding high thanks to his transformative giving to academics and athletics. OSU is stronger and more competitive today thanks to Boone’s passion, vision and record giving. Fortunately for Oklahoma State, Boone Pickens dreamed big. As he said in one of his famous Boone-isms, “When you are hunting elephants, don’t get distracted chasing rabbits.” This special issue of STATE provides a look at the big dreams he had for his alma mater. He stood behind those dreams with big donations. He gave more than $650 million for student scholarships, faculty chairs, athletics and the cherished geology department where he earned his degree and other areas. But beyond the prolific financial donations, his greatest contribution was his inspiration to the Cowboy family. Boone’s gifts showed us what we could achieve. His giving changed how we thought about ourselves and gave us a confidence we didn’t have before.
President Burns Hargis pays tribute to Boone Pickens at the Celebration of Life.
Boone often expressed concern that his large donations would discourage other donors. He was afraid others might think there was no longer a need or believe their donation couldn’t have an impact. But the opposite occurred. His major gifts inspired record numbers of donors to join in the transformation of Oklahoma State. In the last dozen years, OSU has raised more than $2 billion in private support, welcomed nearly 70,000 new donors, more than doubled its endowment and added more than 200 new $1 million-plus donors. Those are incredible numbers, and Boone led the way. Oklahoma State owes much to Boone Pickens. He got the ball rolling, and he would expect us to keep it going. That’s our obligation to honor his legacy. His spirit will be with us as we continue the momentum he created. We hope you enjoy this tribute to Boone Pickens.
This publication, issued by Oklahoma State University as authorized by the vice president of enrollment management and marketing, was printed by Royle Printing Co. at a cost of $0.20 per issue: 37,650 | October 2019 | #7997 | Copyright © 2019, STATE magazine. All rights reserved.
Burns Hargis OSU President
PHOTO GARY LAWSON
S TAT E M AG A Z I N E .O K S TAT E . E D U 1
f you are reading this, I have passed on from this world — not as big a deal for you as it was for me. In my final months, I came to the sad reality that my life really did have a fourth quarter and the clock really would run out on me. I took the time to convey some thoughts that reflect back on my rich and full life.
This message from T. Boone Pickens was written prior to his passing on Sept. 11, 2019. Mr. Pickens’ website and social media accounts are now being maintained by T. Boone Pickens Foundation team members.
PHOTO T. BOONE PICKENS ESTATE
S TAT E M AG A Z I N E .O K S TAT E . E D U 3
In 2005, Boone Pickens was the commencement speaker at OSU.
I was able to amass 1.9 million LinkedIn followers. On Twitter, more than 145,000 (thanks, Drake). This is my goodbye to each of you. One question I was asked time and again: What is it that you will leave behind? That’s at the heart of one of my favorite poems, “Indispensable Man,” which Saxon White Kessinger wrote in 1959. Here are a few stanzas that get to the heart of the matter: Sometime when you feel that your going Would leave an unfillable hole, Just follow these simple instructions And see how they humble your soul; Take a bucket and fill it with water, Put your hand in it up to the wrist, Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining Is a measure of how you’ll be missed. You can splash all you wish when you enter, You may stir up the water galore, But stop and you’ll find that in no time It looks quite the same as before. You be the judge of how long the bucket remembers me. I’ve long recognized the power of effective communication. That’s why in my later years I began to reflect on the many life lessons I learned along the way and shared them with all who would listen. Fortunately, I found the young have a thirst for this message. Many times over the years, I was fortunate enough to speak at student commencement ceremonies, and that gave me the chance to look out into a sea of the future and share some of these thoughts with young minds. My favorite of these speeches included my grandchildren in the audience. What I would tell them was this Depression-era baby from tiny Holdenville, Oklahoma — that wide expanse where the pavement ends, the West begins and the Rock Island crosses the Frisco — lived a pretty good life.
In those speeches, I’d always offer these future leaders a deal: I would trade them my wealth and success, my 68,000-acre ranch and private jet, in exchange for their seat in the audience. That way, I told them, I’d get the opportunity to start over, experience every opportunity America has to offer. If I had to single out one piece of advice that’s guided me through life, most likely it would be from my grandmother, Nellie Molonson. She always made a point of making sure I understood that on the road to success, there’s no point in blaming others when you fail. Here’s how she put it:
“Sonny, I don't care who you are. Someday, you're going to have to sit on your own bottom.” After more than half a century in the energy business, her advice has proven itself to be spot-on time and time again. My failures? I never have any doubt whom they can be traced back to. My successes? Most likely the same guy. Never forget where you come from. I was fortunate to receive the right kind of direction, leadership and work ethic — first in Holdenville, then as a teen in Amarillo, Texas, and continuing in college at what became Oklahoma State University. I honored the values my family instilled in me and was honored many times over by the success they allowed me to achieve. I also long practiced what my mother preached to me throughout her life — be generous. Those values came into play throughout my career, but especially so as my philanthropic giving exceeded my substantial net worth in recent years. For most of my adult life, I’ve believed that I was put on Earth to make money and be generous with it. I’ve never been a fan of inherited wealth. My family is taken care of, but I was
PHOTOS PHIL SHOCKLEY AND GARY LAWSON
far down this philanthropic road when, in 2010, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates asked me to take their Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. I agreed immediately. I liked knowing that I helped a lot of people. I received letters every day thanking me for what I did, the change I fostered in other people’s lives. Those people should know that I appreciated their letters. My wealth was built through some key principles, including: A good work ethic is critical. Don’t think competition is bad, but play by the rules. I loved to compete and win. I never wanted the other guy to do badly; I just wanted to do a little better than he did. Learn to analyze well. Assess the risks and the prospective rewards, and keep it simple. Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader: Avoid the “Readyaim-aim-aim-aim” syndrome. You have to be willing to fire. Learn from mistakes. That’s not just a cliché. I sure made my share. Remember the doors that smashed your fingers the first time and be more careful the next trip through. Be humble. I always believed the higher a monkey climbs in the tree, the more people below can see his ass. You don’t have to be that monkey. Don’t look to government to solve problems — the strength of this country is in its people. Stay fit. You don’t want to get old and feel bad. You’ll also get a lot more accomplished and feel better about yourself if you stay fit. I didn’t make it to 91 by neglecting my health.
Over the years, my staff got used to hearing me in a meeting or on the phone asking, “Whaddya got?” That’s probably what my Maker is asking me about now. Here’s my best answer. I left an undying love for America and the hope it presents for all. I left a passion for entrepreneurship and the promise it sustains. I left the belief that future generations can and will do better than my own. Thank you. It's time we all move on.
Embrace change. Although older people are generally threatened by change, young people loved me because I embraced change rather than running from it. Change creates opportunity. Have faith, both in spiritual matters and in humanity, and in yourself. That faith will see you through the dark times we all navigate.
S TAT E M AG A Z I N E .O K S TAT E . E D U 5
AMERICA’S ORACLE OF OIL WAS ALSO OKLAHOMA STATE’S GIANT OF GENEROSITY
In 2006, Boone Pickens visited a concession stand at an OSU game.
ver since his birth on May 22, 1928, Thomas Boone Pickens II was breaking barriers and making history. The first baby born via cesarean section in Holdenville, Oklahoma, he would grow up to be a captain of industry and an Oklahoma State University Cowboy legend. Boone Pickens was one of America’s most successful energy entrepreneurs. He founded one of the nation’s largest independent oil companies, a highly successful investment fund company and an energy independence campaign. This 1951 Oklahoma A&M geology graduate made Oklahoma State University history as the school’s biggest donor. His $165 million gift to his alma mater in 2006 was the largest single donation to college athletics ever. In all, he donated more than $652 million to OSU during his life. S TAT E M AG A Z I N E .O K S TAT E . E D U 7
“When you list unfortunate things you did — Texas A&M allowing Boone Pickens to go to Oklahoma State has to be on the top of their list.” OSU PRESIDENT BURNS HARGIS
Mr. Pickens’ foundation came from growing up in Depression-era Holdenville, Oklahoma. His family lived in a modest bungalow, next door to his maternal grandmother and aunt. His lifelong values, morals and even his business ethics reflected the influences and teachings of those women. “Boone could keep you mesmerized with stories of Holdenville and small-town America,” said longtime friend OSU President Burns Hargis. “The influence of his family in his rural community was profound. The Holdenville life lessons of honesty and hard work set the pace and trajectory of his life.” Mr. Pickens often mentioned the successful newspaper route he had as a boy on his bike. As one story goes, he found an empty wallet during his route and returned it to the owner, receiving a $1 reward. Arriving home, he proudly waved the bill to his mother, aunt and grandmother, all
sitting on the front porch. He was immediately reprimanded: “We don’t take money for doing the right thing!” The boy had to return the money in a pouring rainstorm. Lesson learned. Another lesson he learned well: Growing his business through acquisitions. He began that paper route with 28 customers, but added surrounding routes until he was delivering 154 papers a day, six days a week, he told The Dallas Morning News in 2016. The resulting $38 a month: “Let me tell you, when I was 12 years old, that meant real money in my pocket. This was during the Depression.” “A fool and his money are easily parted,” his grandmother would repeat every Saturday when Boone went to town. Fiscal responsibility was always part of the family’s curriculum. His father, Thomas Boone Pickens, was a successful petroleum landman and taught his son the finer skills of risk-taking in business — a lesson that would serve him well as he entered college and the business world.
Above left: A young Boone Pickens with his mother. Above right: A really young Boone.
When Boone was in his teens, the Pickens family followed his father’s work to Texas oilfields. Boone loved sports and was particularly good at basketball in high school. So good, in fact, that he received a $25-a-month scholarship to play basketball at Texas A&M University in College Station. But when his college basketball career faltered, Texas A&M canceled his scholarship. Mr. Pickens cast his eye and his future to Oklahoma A&M College. “When you list unfortunate things you did — Texas A&M allowing Boone Pickens to go to Oklahoma State has to be on the top of their list,” Hargis chuckled. “But lucky for OSU!” “Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State University, caught Boone’s eye during the incredible years of the famed basketball coach Henry Iba,” said OSU Athletic Director Mike Holder, another of the oilman’s longtime friends. “Boone didn’t play basketball at OSU, but he did fall in love with the campus and the culture at Oklahoma State and majored in geology.”
In 1951, with a wife (the first of five), a child (the first of five) and a geology degree, Mr. Pickens entered the oil and gas business with Phillips Petroleum in Texas. His restless entrepreneurial spirit soon had him tramping through the Texas Permian Basin looking for oil on his own, accumulating land and drilling rights. His first company, Petroleum Exploration Inc., was established in 1954; not far behind came Altair Oil and Gas Co. and an expansion into Canada. In 1964, Mr. Pickens created his beloved Mesa Petroleum, a company that consolidated his holdings and became the nation’s largest independent oil company. He was only 35 years old.
Boone Pickens as a basketball player.
STORY GOODEN GROUP | PHOTOS T. BOONE PICKENS ESTATE
S TAT E M AG A Z I N E .O K S TAT E . E D U 9
“For a long time, he was considered a boy genius for building Mesa Petroleum out of nothing. He was really good at finding oil,” Hargis said. Along the way, Mr. Pickens developed an innovative but controversial way to make millions. He would target a company with weak management, buy a significant stake, take it over, build new management, operational techniques and efficiencies, sell it and make money. In the early 1980s, the so-called hostile takeover was common in the business world but new to the oil and gas industry. Mr. Pickens’ opponents labeled him a corporate raider and greenmailer who used the threat of a takeover to obtain a company. “Boone wasn’t a corporate raider; he was a shareholder activist,” Holder said. “He understood that companies belong to the shareholders. Sure, he made money on the deals, but so did the shareholders.” Mr. Pickens fought his accusers, and the media jumped into the fray, making him a household name. He became a regular on talk shows, putting the oil and gas business and himself in the national spotlight. Time magazine put him on the cover in 1985, and Mr. Pickens put big companies on his takeover target list: Gulf Oil, UNOCAL, Phillips, Newmont Mining,
Diamond Shamrock and Japanese automaker Koito. His mantra was “predictability leads to failure.” The Holdenville lessons in risktaking from his father were turning him into a billionaire. In 1997, Mr. Pickens expanded his wealth in a new direction, creating the hedge fund investment company BP Capital. Along the way there were successes and failures. Mr. Pickens acknowledged the downs: “I’ve drilled my fair share of (dry) holes!” Mr. Pickens’ mother, Grace Marcaline, preached generosity to her son, telling him to never forget where he came from. He listened. One of Mr. Pickens’ most memorable “Booneisms,” as his friends like to call his words: “I believe one of the reasons I was put on this earth was to make money and to be generous with it.” “All told, Boone Pickens donated more than $652 million to OSU academics and athletics,” Holder said. “His innovative giving/matching program inspired an unprecedented level of OSU alumni and friends to also make charitable gifts. Such innovation created a nearly $2 billion impact on Oklahoma State. “Boone invested in our faculty and students and transformed the university,” Hargis said. “Boone Pickens restored the pride in Oklahoma State.”
In 2018, Boone Pickens’ childhood home was moved from Holdenville, Oklahoma, to the Karsten Creek property where Mr. Pickens was laid to rest.
“I believe one of the reasons I was put on this earth was to make money and to be generous with it.”
In 2008, Mr. Pickens transitioned from petroleum to alternative energy sources with the Pickens Plan, an energy policy campaign to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil in favor of alternative fuels such as wind power and natural gas. Mr. Pickens wrote two books: Boone in 1987, and The First Billion Is the Hardest: Reflections on a Life of Comebacks and America’s Energy Future in 2008, considered a run for Texas governor and was inducted to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2003. A series of small strokes beginning in late 2016 and a “Texas-size fall” (his words) in 2017 slowly began taking his energy but never diminished his drive and determination.
T. BOONE PICKENS
In 2018, he handed off BP Capital management, put his beloved ranch in the Texas Panhandle up for sale for $250 million and moved his childhood house from Holdenville to OSU, near the Karsten Creek golf course, where he was buried Sept. 26. On Sept. 11, 2019, Thomas Boone Pickens II died at age 91 in his Dallas home. He leaves behind three daughters and two sons, 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His family lost a patriarch. His friends lost a loyal friend. His university lost a benevolent humanitarian. And America lost a giant.
Check out an array of videos featuring T. Boone Pickens at okla.st/ pickensplaylist.
OSU’s football stadium was named after Boone Pickens in honor of his generous donations to athletics.
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PHOTO GARY LAWSON
PHOTO BENTON RUDD
S TAT E M AG A Z I N E .O K S TAT E . E D U 11
Whether the matter at hand was making a deal, kicking around ideas or charming an interviewer, T. Boone Pickens didn’t pull any punches. His words of wisdom became known as “Boone-isms” — often delivered with a straight-to-thebone quickness and an endearing flair.
TRIBUTES CONDOLENCES Tributes and statements about T. Boone Pickens flowed after news of his death was made public. A sampling: “T. Boone Pickens became a household name across the country because he was bold, imaginative, and daring. He was successful — and more importantly, he generously shared his success with institutions and communities across Texas and Oklahoma. He loved the outdoors, his country, and his friends and family, and Laura and I send our condolences.”
George W. Bush
“Nobody has done what Boone did. He wanted to enjoy the fun of giving away money and seeing what happened with it. Scholarships. Football stadiums. Engineering schools. Hospitals.”
RETIRED CHIEF JUSTICE, OKLAHOMA SUPREME COURT
FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
“Today, a lot of constituency lost a great friend. Boone was a personal friend and confidant of mine. He was inspirational. He was a man of sports. His love for competing, frankly, was unmatched.”
DALLAS COWBOYS OWNER
“As a self-made billionaire and titan of philanthropy, T. Boone Pickens embodied the American Dream. Truly one of the most influential Oklahomans in our state’s history, he leaves behind an incredible legacy that stretches far beyond the borders of Oklahoma. While it is right to be saddened by his loss, it is also right to pause and celebrate all he has done for Oklahoma and the entire country.”
“T. Boone Pickens was a Texas-sized legend who left a permanent impact on the world of American energy as we know it. He was a bold visionary who long championed a diverse energy mix from renewable power to oil and gas, and understood that American energy security is critical to our national security. Most of all, he was a wonderful and philanthropic person who gave generously to causes he believed in. Countless lives have been changed because of him, including mine, and I am lucky to have called him a friend.”
FORMER U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY AND TEXAS GOVERNOR
“They grow big personalities in Texas, but none could top Boone. I never was with him that it wasn’t fun.”
CEO, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM MOORE, OKLAHOMA S TAT E M AG A Z I N E .O K S TAT E . E D U 13
“[Boone's] vision and inspiration have forever changed our lives for the better. He taught us to dream bigand to never stop trying to make a difference.” ANNE GREENWOOD
Speakers at the Celebration of Life for Boone Pickens included (from left): Larry Reece, Gov. Kevin Stitt, Anne Greenwood, Burns Hargis, Mike Holder and Mike Gundy.
Celebrating the Life of a Great Cowboy
T. Boone Pickens' legacy brings thousands together at Gallagher-Iba Arena
wo weeks after Boone Pickens’ death, the Cowboy faithful amassed to celebrate the life of the Ultimate Cowboy. In front of thousands at Gallagher-Iba Arena, big names took the stage to honor an unmatched legacy that reshaped OSU. There were laughs and tears, stories of inspiration and wit, all punctuated by a pep rally feel and a swelling of orange pride. Though the speakers expressed sadness at Mr. Pickens’ passing, they praised him for his philanthropy and his generous spirit, noting that the impact of his big heart and bigger gifts will continue to shape OSU and inspire others. Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis said there’s no denying that Mr. Pickens’ generosity — totaling more than $652 million — revolutionized OSU, turning it into a household name. But his biggest gift remains immeasurable.
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“Maybe his biggest gift … was the inspiration he provided to the university and to our donors,” Hargis said. “Since he gave that $150 million gift, we have now raised in cash and pledges over $2 billion. With 70,000 new donors, our endowment here at the university has more than doubled, and we’ve added about 200 new $1 million-plus donors. So, clearly Boone’s impact, his inspiration, has gone way beyond his own gifts. He really has inspired our university forever.
“Maybe his biggest gift ... was the inspiration he provided to the university and to our donors.” OSU PRESIDENT BURNS HARGIS
STORY MACK BURKE | PHOTOS PHIL SHOCKLEY AND GARY LAWSON
“He got the ball rolling, and it’s our job to honor his legacy and keep it going. And that’s what we’re going to do.” Fearless ambition was woven throughout Mr. Pickens’ life, a message he often shared. Regardless of how that message was delivered — whether with a folksy, western witticism or via an optimistic speech both lofty in its ideals and pragmatic in its approach — it’s one that resonates. Echoing through the arena on Sept. 25, 2019, the voice of another philanthropist drove the point home: His words, like his actions, inspired others to make a difference. Anne Greenwood, who along with her husband Michael have given generously to the university, offered a personal, emotionally charged remembrance, crediting Mr. Pickens for their decision to donate to the university sooner rather than later. “Mr. Pickens always gave with the hope that his gifts would inspire others to join him. And they absolutely did,” Anne Greenwood said. “His vision and inspiration have forever changed our lives for the better. He taught us to dream big and to never stop trying to make a difference.” Like many donors, the Greenwoods had already given to OSU for student scholarships and programs, but they were waiting to make their large donation through their estate plan. One fateful afternoon, Mr. Pickens’ words inspired them to act. “Right here on the campus, on the OSU Library Lawn, as we were all gathered here to celebrate Boone’s 80th birthday, he made a statement that forever changed [our lives]," Anne Greenwood said. "He said, quite simply, ‘I don’t understand why people wait until they’re gone to give back so they can’t see the difference that they have made.’ That profound statement absolutely struck a chord with us, and Michael and I thought about it."
Left: Anne Greenwood on Mr. Pickens: “His vision and inspiration have forever changed our lives for the better.”
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Boone Pickens once took a turn as one of OSU’s “Paddle People.”
Gracious as always, Mr. Pickens sent a personal thank-you to the couple after their first major gift. They ran into him at the next football game, and Anne Greenwood said it was her turn to thank him. “I told him we should be thanking him, that his comments that day were indeed the inspiration behind our giving. We thought it was so important that he understood the impact he had on our lives … and how he was reaching so many thousands of loyal OSU supporters.” Mr. Pickens’ efforts continue to ripple, building on the transformative effect on OSU he had in life. “We have watched many things happen but I think the most dynamic thing that has happened to Stillwater is the gift from Boone Pickens, which instigated other people to give,” said two-time OSU graduate Nelda Helt, an audience member who first graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1963. “Campus has totally transformed.”
Darrel Dominick, another two-time OSU graduate who first graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1980, came to the celebration to show his respect for Mr. Pickens’ enormous impact on the university. “Boone Pickens deserves all the respect we can give him for what he has done,” he said. “He made a difference, not only for Oklahoma State University but for Stillwater, for the state of Oklahoma and future graduates. … The guy did the right thing with his money.” Fellow OSU alumnus Gov. Kevin Stitt also spoke highly of the late oilman. His speech acknowledged Mr. Pickens’ values, his love for Oklahoma, OSU and hope for the future. “T. Boone’s passion for people and particularly the next generation of Americans was evident in all that he did,” Stitt said. “Because of his love for Oklahoma’s next generation, he also ensured that
A pep rally atmosphere permeated the Celebration of Life with participation from OSU’s marching band, drum majors and more.
“T. Boone's passion for people and particularly the next generation of Americans was evident in all that he did.” GOV. KEVIN STITT
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they have access to every opportunity for a bright future. … We can be confident that his legacy will live on with each Cowboy or Cowgirl and with each future leader who crosses the stage with a diploma in hand.” OSU Athletic Director Mike Holder began his speech musing on how he would remember his best friend, a man he described as “like a father” to him: “He was really a giant among men who acted like a common man.” OSU football coach Mike Gundy remembered the grand opening of the newly renovated Boone Pickens Stadium at OSU in 2009, counting it among his favorite memories of the man. “For me, that day that we opened the stadium, when he was able to cut that ribbon, … I could see it in his face, I could see it in his eyes, … he was bursting with pride. It was pride in his university, in the place that he loved." “Mr. Pickens generated all of this, and we just followed through,” Gundy added. “He never forgot where he came from in Holdenville, he never forgot Oklahoma, and he never forgot Stillwater.” Fittingly, Mr. Pickens was buried next to his childhood home, which was relocated to OSU’s Karsten Creek golf course. Boone Pickens never forgot his roots, and his actions in life ensured that they will continue to grow for generations to come.
Mike Holder offered memories of his best friend during the Celebration of Life.
“He never forgot where he came from in Holdenville, he never forgot Oklahoma, and he never forgot Stillwater.” MIKE GUNDY, OSU FOOTBALL HEAD COACH
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The passing of T. Boone Pickens drew an array of tributes and condolences on social media.
Larger than life. I will be forever grateful to have been a small part of his life — there will never be a greater OSU Cowboy than Mr. T. Boone Pickens. RIP.
Boone ... thank you for being you and for being a friend ... over your 91 years you have made a lasting impact on countless individuals as well as the world ... you were and always will be an impressive person ... your philanthropic endeavors alone are inspiring ... thank you for letting us be a part of your life! Love you and rest easy my friend!
Way back Wednesday … prior to the 2006 Independence Bowl victory over Bama. Boone, 8-yearold Lauren Reece & me. #GoPokes #ThanksTBP
All of us in the Oklahoma State University family are deeply saddened by the passing of T. Boone Pickens. At the same time, we join in celebrating his incredible life. He was the ultimate Cowboy. It is impossible to calculate his full impact on Oklahoma State. His historic gifts to academics and athletics not only transformed the university, they inspired thousands of others to join in the transformation. OSU will not be the same without the legendary Boone Pickens, but his mark on our university will last forever. #RememberingBoone
Dan Rather Oklahoma State University Happy #OrangeFriday, Cowboys! Wear your orange with us today to honor @BoonePickens, the ultimate Cowboy! #RememberingBoone
Mike Gundy Mr. Pickens is a big part of our success and we’re all thankful for the lasting impact he’s had on Oklahoma State. It would have been difficult for us to climb as high as we have without him. He’ll be missed, but his legacy here will live on for a long time to come.
T. Boone Pickens was an archetype & throwback, a Southwestern oil baron of the special Oklahoma-Texas breed. Crusty, blunt and tough as Rhino hide. Also an innovator in wind energy and a philanthropist, with a big place in his heart and deep pockets for OSU. May he Rest in Peace.
OSU Alumni Association This one’s for BOONE!!
Kevin Stitt Oklahoma has lost a legend with the passing of Mr. T. Boone Pickens. T. Boone Pickens’ love and pride for Oklahoma overflowed through his contribution to job creation and economic growth and his generous philanthropy to Oklahoma’s finest institutions. I considered him a friend and mentor, and his strong legacy will long be remembered and celebrated by Oklahomans.
Boone Pickens School of Geology Mr. T. Boone Pickens (1928-2019) will always live with us. The loss for our School is immense but he will always be in our hearts. He is our everlasting Boone Pickens School of Geology Super Cowboy. As President Hargis stated, he is The Ultimate Cowboy!
Mike Holder The greatest Cowboy of them all has taken his last ride. It will never be the same again. We could never thank him enough for all that he did for our university. He gave us everything he had and all that he asked in return was that we play by the rules and dream big. He was living proof that anything is possible if you're wearing orange. "Great ride, Cowboy, great ride!"
OSU Foundation OSU Athletics
"Mr. Pickens lived the life of the quintessential Cowboy, and taught us all how to be more generous. His transformational impact will be felt at OSU for generations. All of us in the Cowboy family will miss him deeply."
The Ultimate Cowboy. #RememberingBoone
—Kirk Jewell, OSU Foundation president
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T. Boone Pickens “Have faith, both in spiritual matters and in humanity, and in yourself. That faith will see you through the dark times we all navigate.” #RememberingBoone
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“Mr. Pickens will always be our Forever Cowboy, his torch will live forever with our school and beyond.” DR. CAMELIA KNAPP, HEAD, BOONE PICKENS SCHOOL OF GEOLOGY
Building on Geology Pickens led his school to strategic plans — and success
Boone Pickens was known for being a man with a plan. But as a 20-year- old student at Oklahoma A&M in 1948, Pickens was a typical sophomore, enjoying college life and his time in a fraternity. He had transferred from Texas A&M after one year when his $25-a-month basketball scholarship was cut. Emeritus faculty member Dr. Gary Stewart — who earned his bachelor’s in geology in 1957 and began teaching at OSU in 1971 — picks up the story from there. “I think Boone rather enjoyed being a student until the end of his sophomore year,” Stewart said. “He invited his parents to come up to a party and at the end of that party, he went with his father and mother to the car. His dad told him that, ‘Son, we had a four-year plan, and two years are gone. Seems you don’t have much of a plan.’ In other words, you’ve got two more years. His father had his full attention.” During a 2018 interview for the geology department, Pickens confirmed the story. “My dad told me, ‘A fool with a plan can beat a genius with no plan,’” he said. Pickens decided to buckle down and get serious. He sat down with Dr. V. Brown Monett, the new department head of geology, and planned a way to get through the coursework in two years. “Just think what might have not happened had Dr. Monett not taken that hour to work with a student,” Stewart said. “I contend that there was never an hour in the history of OSU that was more
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Boone Pickens (right) talks with guests at his Mesa Vista Ranch during an annual Oklahoma State University Boone Pickens School of Geology alumnifaculty retreat.
Dr. Camelia Knapp (left) and Boone Pickens at his Mesa Vista Ranch in 2018 during an annual Oklahoma State University Boone Pickens School of Geology alumni-faculty retreat.
rewarding than that hour. Boone got guidance from Dr. Monett, and I’m satisfied that he never forgot it and that he was grateful always.” From there, Pickens’ path forward was clear, and he graduated with solid grades in 1951. THE 1982 GIFT In 1982, he gave $1 million to OSU to help build a new $4 million geology building. Today, that building is the southeast wing of the Noble Research Center. Dr. Jay Gregg, who earned a master’s in geology at OSU in 1976, was recruited to head the Boone Pickens School of Geology in 2005 and tasked with raising money to help grow the program. “I did not make the decision to come here until after I drove to Dallas and talked with Mr. Pickens,” Gregg said. “He did not want to interfere with the natural progression of the department but he wanted to see a plan, see growth and be better than OU and Texas. Boone made it very clear that he did not want to be the sole support for the geology program, but that he would help in every way he could. He didn’t just give money away; he used his donations as leverage to bring in more money. He helped the School of Geology quite a bit but in the eight years I was head. We raised something north of $25 million, and only part of that was from Boone.” Herb Davis, who passed away this
STORY DAVID BITTON | PHOTOS OSU SCHOOL OF GEOLOGY
spring, was another major benefactor for the geology program. “Boone wanted to see students do well and would pay for all the grad students to come to Oklahoma City for geological society meetings,” Gregg said. “He was really big on networking and getting students started on their career path. He was beloved by students.” In 2007, Pickens offered his Mesa Vista Ranch in the Texas panhandle for retreats. The first retreat was in the spring of 2008, and the latest retreat was in the fall of 2018. “As a faculty retreat, the ranch provided the opportunity to plan, and it was at the ranch that Boone told the faculty and alumni guests that the school needed a plan,” said Dr. Jim Puckette, associate professor of geology. “This was years ahead of similar requests by the university that departments develop strategic plans.” SCHOOL HISTORY The geology program awarded its first bachelor’s degree in 1946 and separated from chemistry to become its own department in 1947. Undergraduate enrollment has varied greatly depending on how the oil and gas industry is performing. A Ph.D. program was added in 2007. Between 2005 and 2013, Gregg — who is retiring after this academic year — secured funding and
increased the prominence of the program. Funding for graduate students, a growing research budget and a larger faculty are now in place. Two endowed chair positions carry Pickens’ name: the Boone Pickens Distinguished Chair of Geosciences and the Boone Pickens Chair of Applied Geophysics. Dr. Camelia Knapp took over as head of the program in June 2018. “Of the 15 tenure-track faculty, there are seven endowed professorships,” Knapp said. “It is unbelievable. At the University of South Carolina, where I was before, we had a faculty of 20-25 with no endowed professorships. In OSU’s case, I think it has a lot to do with Boone and his feeling so invested in OSU. Dr. Gregg also worked really hard with the OSU Foundation to establish endowed chairs. That work has brought additional highcaliber faculty to the university.” When Knapp asked Mr. Pickens for words of wisdom for the department, he simply said, “Up,” which is now the school’s motto. Pickens and Davis were recognized with the Boone Pickens School of Geology Super Cowboy Award last spring. “Mr. Pickens will always be our Forever Cowboy,” Knapp said. “His torch will live forever with our school and beyond.”
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Friends to the End
Mike Holder fondly remembers his camaraderie with Boone Pickens
ince his passing, T. Boone Pickens’ legacy of generosity has been at the forefront, with more than half a billion dollars given during his lifetime to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University. His name is etched in granite at the T. Boone Pickens School of Geology and proclaimed in letters several feet tall inside and outside the football stadium. News of his business prowess and gutsy decision-making is easily retrieved. He touched thousands during his lifetime — but far fewer actually knew the man. For OSU Athletic Director Mike Holder, Mr. Pickens was a confidant, a mentor and most of all, a friend. In 1973, Mike Holder was an Oklahoma State University graduate student set on joining the PGA Tour when coach Labron Harris convinced him to apply for the university’s head golf coach opening. “When you’re young, you think you can do anything,” Holder said. “I thought I would be better than the coach I had, and that was delusional. I thought I would do it for a year, work on my game and then go play on the PGA Tour.”
Boone Pickens (from left), Mike Holder and Jerry Walsh prepare for a round at the Cowboy Pro-Am golf tournament.
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Holder inherited a program budget of $27,000, which had to cover his salary, money for scholarships, tournament entry fees, equipment and everything else. Holder was stumped. He had big plans for his new job but no idea how to make them happen. Holder came up with a golf tournament, the Cowboy Pro-Am, to raise funds and invited alumnus Jerry Walsh to play. Walsh brought two friends: Mr. Pickens and Sherman Smith. Holder was simply grateful Walsh produced a team for the tournament. He couldn’t have known that the future was walking into the world of the Cowboys with three sets of clubs. The trio played every year. Holder was intrigued by Mr. Pickens, the CEO of a successful company. Once Holder studied up on the man, he bought a little stock in Pickens’ company, Mesa Petroleum. “I wrote him a letter and told him we bought some stock in his company, you know, to reciprocate,” Holder said. “He did a favor for Jerry Walsh when he came here. So I wanted him to
understand that I appreciated it, and that I also had confidence in him, so I invested in his company.” Little by little, over one golf weekend a year, a friendship was forged. One of Mr. Pickens’ passions was quail hunting, and he occasionally invited Holder to come to his ranch in west Texas for a weekend hunt. “When Boone Pickens invited you to do something, you accepted the invitation,” he said. “I came initially out of respect for him. (Quail hunting) wasn’t something I particularly wanted to do, but that changed quickly.” For 22 years, the trio of Walsh, Pickens and Smith played the Cowboy Pro-Am. Then came Nov. 19, 1995. Walsh and his wife died in a car accident in Amarillo. “That was a really, really tough loss for me, but especially for Boone. That was his best friend,” Holder said. “I never will forget, after that funeral, I was visiting with Boone and he said, ‘Why don’t you come out to the ranch, and we’ll hunt a little bit of quail?’ I still wasn’t a quail hunter, but I knew he needed somebody.”
“He changed everybody’s perception of what is possible and then what part everybody should play in the future. Everyone has got to be all in and everyone has got to do their part.” MIKE HOLDER, OKLAHOMA STATE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR
STORY SHANNON G. RIGSBY | PHOTOS PHIL SHOCKLEY, GARY LAWSON AND MIKE HOLDER
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Mike Holder (left) and Boone Pickens take in a football game from the Cowboys sidelines.
The years from 1995 to 2000 were years littered with losses for Mr. Pickens. He lost Walsh. He lost his company, Mesa Petroleum. He sold the Dallas mansion with the manned guard house at the end of the drive and leased a modest home. He sold the corporate jet. During 1997 and 1998, Holder said Mr. Pickens suffered incredible losses of equity in his new business, BP Capital. Quail hunting was a refuge for Mr. Pickens, and Holder joined when he was invited. Those trips to west Texas would become defining moments of Holder’s life. Jokes and advice were dispensed. Parables were told often enough to earn informal titles such as “The Cowboy and the Rattlesnake.” Holder was competitive and took Mr. Pickens’ instruction well. He learned to love quail hunting but appreciated the time with Mr. Pickens more, regardless of the score. Holder once asked Mr. Pickens how he was handling the losses that decimated his personal and professional lives after 1995. He remembers Mr. Pickens saying change was good; it was an opportunity to reflect on life, how he got to this place and what he would do about it. “Besides,” Mr. Pickens told Holder, “at night when I put my head on the pillow and close my eyes, it all looks the same.” It turned out the growing mountain of disappointments was only a figurative bump in the road.
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“It didn’t affect him that much,” Holder said. “He always valued people and relationships a lot more than material things. He was very humble and very unselfish, and those are two qualities in short supply these days, particularly among successful people. He’s everything you would want to be — who most people aspire to be but fall short.” Mr. Pickens’ comeback venture, BP Capital, began to succeed after 2000. Then in his 70s, Mr. Pickens’ eyesight began a natural decline, and his hunting suffered. Life got busier, and the quail season fell further down his list of priorities. For Holder, Mr. Pickens was his best friend. But Holder noted there are
Mike Holder (left) and Boone Pickens celebrate the Cowboys’ 2018 NCAA men’s golf championship.
hundreds of people who think Boone Pickens was their best friend. “He had a lot of people who loved and respected and admired him because of who he was and how much fun he was to be around and then how generous he was,” Holder said. “I guess the best compliment I could give him is he’s the best friend I’ve had when times are good, and he’s an even better friend to have or a partner to have when times are bad because he’s the same.” Mr. Pickens changed the game for OSU, Holder said. “I think you’ll find that giving has been transformed at our university,” he said. “And I fully expect at some point in time that someone will give more money to OSU than Boone Pickens.” The money, though, was secondary. Mr. Pickens’ primary contribution to Oklahoma State cannot be truly quantified. “Most people focus on the money he gave to OSU, but that’s not the most valuable thing,” Holder said. “It was telling us we had to play by the rules,
Mike Gundy (from left), Mike Holder and Burns Hargis (right) attended Boone Pickens’ 90th birthday party at the Dallas Country Club in 2018.
you don’t have to cheat to win, you work hard, play hard and compete hard, and then he set the example about dreaming big. “He changed everybody’s perception of what is possible and then what part everybody should play in the future. Everyone has got to be all in and everyone has got to do their part.” If mortals could return to an earlier time, Holder said he would go back to the
late 1990s and bask in that season of life again, the years before the money came. He would spend those hours again with his mentor, surrogate father and friend, enjoying bright mornings and open land, brimming with the possibility of adventure. They had no worldly concerns beyond the day’s objective, and mealtimes were peppered with the
ribbing that came from a good win and salted with Pickens’ wisdom. “He changed my whole life in those five years,” Holder said. “And all of it was because the way he treated me and treated everybody around him at the ranch. He treated everybody as an equal. He was a giant of a man who acted like the common man.”
“He changed my whole life...And all of it was because of the way he treated me and treated everybody around him at the ranch. He treated everybody as an equal. He was a giant of a man who acted like the common man.” MIKE HOLDER, OKLAHOMA STATE ATHLETIC DIRECTOR
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AMERICA’S BRIGHTEST ORANGE 201 ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center Stillwater, OK 74078-7043
“The greatest Cowboy of them all has taken his last ride. … He was living proof that anything is possible if you’re wearing orange. Great ride, Cowboy, great ride!” Mike Holder, Oklahoma State Athletic Director