Ann Hargis speeds across campus in her bright orange golf cart named Clementine, running late for a ribbon cutting.
It’s not as if she’s been slacking. Already this morning, the first lady of Oklahoma State University has had two meetings, walked her dog, Scruff, and ferried three students around campus in Clementine, all before 11 a.m.
As Hargis arrives for a ceremony dedicating the Cowboy Walking Trails, 11/2 miles of paths that cut across the heart of the campus, she still has enough time to make the rounds of “hellos” with a cast of familiar faces, quiet Scruff from barking at Pistol Pete and grab a hug from her husband, OSU President Burns Hargis.
In her introductory remarks, OSU’s chief wellness officer, Suzy Harrington, gushes over the effort the first couple put into making OSU a healthier campus.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without all the hard work from the ‘First Cowgirl,’” Harrington said. “Our goal of becoming America’s healthiest campus is being achieved everyday because of the focus this university and its people place on their own well-being.”
Now, six years into her husband’s tenure as the 18th president of Oklahoma State, Ann Hargis, 69, feels she’s come into her own at the university.
She’s helped start several programs around campus with the goal of encouraging active and healthy lifestyles, including a therapy-dog training program, walking paths, exercise classes and nature trails that has led the Oklahoma Department of Health to name OSU a certified Healthy Campus two straight years.
“When we first got here, I remember feeling a little overwhelmed but excited,” said Ann Hargis, who grew up in Dallas, graduated from the University of Texas and will celebrate her 45th wedding anniversary in June. “Now we have the ball rolling and we are so entrenched in the community, I feel like we are really making a lasting impact.”
On any given day on the Stillwater campus, you can find Hargis taking in a baseball game, watching a theater performance, enjoying an art exhibit or taking a leisurely stroll across Library Lawn with her husband.
One of her favorite things is piloting Clementine and offering rides to students.
As Teresa Miller approaches Hargis just outside the Student Union on a recent day, Miller’s dog, Pedro, perched in her lap, she doesn’t recognize the woman wearing the orange OSU shirt over a white sweater with matching orange sunglasses. Hargis makes sure to introduce herself straight away, petting Miller’s dog and asking how the 48-year-old woman came to be back in school. Hargis leans in as Miller tells her about pursuing a degree in applied sociology with hopes of joining the masters program in forensic psychology after she graduates.