STILLWATER — Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis says people make a living by what they earn, but they make a life by what they give. It’s a message that Hargis exemplifies, said Calvin Anthony, chairman of the Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges — the board that governs OSU. “He’s been an inspiring figure for our entire community,” Anthony said. During his first three years as president of Oklahoma State, Hargis has worked to increase enrollment and student retention, foster creativity and raise more than $730 million. OSU’s 18th president is the second OSU graduate to serve as president of the university. He earned an accounting degree from Oklahoma State and a law degree from the University of Oklahoma. Hargis came to OSU in 2008 after a legal and business career. He and his wife, Ann, work as a team. Whether the couple is hosting students for hamburgers or Hargis is making a pitch for OSU’s $1 billion fundraising campaign, his passion for the university is evident. Oklahoma State is closing in on the $1 billion mark in its Branding Success Campaign. Hargis said he is confident the university will get there. “When we do, we’ll probably just start again,” he said. Hargis said he loves being surrounded by students because their energy and enthusiasm is inspiring. One afternoon, Hargis noticed a group of students outside his window playing a game he didn’t recognize. Curious, Hargis went outside to watch. When the students recognized him and invited him to join their game of cricket, he didn’t decline. An advocate for creativity and imagination, Hargis has promoted entrepreneurial programs at OSU, including the start of an Institute for Creativity and Innovation. He encourages students, staff and faculty to devise creative solutions, like a student recycling initiative to clean up cans and bottles after home football games.
Cares about students, university employeesRobert Sternberg, OSU’s provost and senior vice president, said one of the main reasons he took the job at Oklahoma State last year was so he could work with Hargis. Sternberg, who has a background in psychology, has studied leadership. He said Hargis possesses the qualities of a great leader, including creativity, intelligence, wisdom, analytical skills and passion. Hargis cares about his students and employees and takes a personal interest in their lives, Sternberg said. “Easily he’s the best person I’ve ever worked for,” he said. “You don’t feel like you’re working for him. You are, but he makes people feel like they’re working as part of a team.” Hargis said Oklahoma State’s mission as a land grant school is to serve the state by developing great talents. He said he is proud of the fact that freshman enrollment this year was the highest it has been since 1982 and this year’s freshman class was the university’s highest ranking class academically. Next year’s class looks to be strong, too, Hargis said. “We need more college graduates and OSU wants to do its part,” Hargis said.