Share “Collected Wisdom: Boone Pickens”

Interviewed by Berry Tramel Published: June 14, 2009
Boone Pickens, who grew up in Holdenville and is a 1951 Oklahoma A&M graduate, has donated more than $400 million to his alma mater, with the majority of that to athletics. He is a legendary Texas oil man, both wildcatting and acquiring oil and gas companies. Pickens is fast friends with Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder and a big supporter of football coach Mike Gundy. OSU’s football stadium now bears Pickens’ name.

I feel so strongly about the state of Oklahoma. All we can do over there (in Stillwater), I want to do. I see most of the kids over there, I feel I can be an influence. They see I did well, they say hell, why not me?

Some are awed by me. I never will forget, two years ago, some big ol’ kid came through the athletic department. Holder said, "This is Boone Pickens.” The kid said, "Are you alive? Your name’s on the stadium. I didn’t know they put your name on the stadium unless you were dead.” I said, "I came back.” The kid said, "I can’t believe this. I didn’t know you were alive.”

They see me in different ways. Most of ’em are from small towns. The student body, they relate to me. I’ve had enough appearances in front of ’em. They probably say, "He talks like my granddad.”

If you’d ever talk to some who shook hands with me and talked for three or four minutes, I think they’d walk off and say I was a regular guy. I always want to come off as a guy like everybody else. I come from that background.

I never was a good pool player. My dad was a good pool player. I used to sleep on pool tables sometimes. Only place I had to sleep.

In high school, I loved the team relationship. We had one excellent player. But he wouldn’t win by himself. We had to get him the ball. I run my operation the same way; we speak about team a lot.

I was good at all sports. I was a high school basketball player. I went to Texas A&M in 1947 on a basketball scholarship. I left because they cut me off the team. That could have been a big mistake by Texas A&M, saving that $25 scholarship.

I’d like to tell you that I played quarterback at Oklahoma State with Barry Sanders, but that wouldn’t be true. I tell people, you put a quarterback meter on me, I’d score high, meaning I’d like to play quarterback. But I was too small, didn’t have a good arm.

Sports are big in America. You look at the Final Four.


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