The $70 million contribution to Oklahoma State University by alumnus T. Boone Pickens has excited the hearts of many associated with the university and has given OSU a bright outlook for the future of academics as well as athletics.
The donation was announced Thursday. Twenty million dollars will go directly to the renovations of Lewis Field. Pickens set aside $35 million for OSU athletic scholarships in his will. Another $15 million made through interest on the first $20 million will be donated to the general university scholarship fund.
"I think it can do a lot for Oklahoma State University period," said Claud Evans, member of the Board of Regents for Oklahoma A&M Colleges. He said that sometimes people divide these things by which department receives it, "but anything that happens that is good for Oklahoma State University helps the entire university. That's the exciting part."
Evans said the nation sees a school's athletics program more than any other facet.
"Athletics, all of athletics, is kind of like the front porch of our university," Evans said. "And that's the thing that people across the nation see first. And that's the thing that helps to recruit students in every discipline."
Among other things, keeping the renovations of Lewis Field on schedule has many elated.
"This assures that we will be able to stay with the time frame that we had identified, so I think it does put legs under the project," said OSU athletic director Harry Birdwell.
Despite the large amount going to athletics, some believe that the money going to the general scholarship fund is equally, if not more, important.
"I am also thrilled about the scholarship plans," said regent Lou Watkins. "I just think it speaks well for our alums, and particularly Mr. Pickens, when they not only support things like the stadium project but then realize also our major concern here is academics and scholarships."
OSU president emeritus James Halligan ranks the academic donation No. 1 above the athletic contribution.
"To me the contribution to the stadium of course will assure that we can get phase one underway, and it will give us the confidence that we need to go forward and fund the second and the third phases; but the $15 million for general university scholarships will have an enormous long-term benefit on the institution," Halligan said from his home Thursday evening.
He said the donation's impact will last for centuries and will have a wonderful impact on the institution.
Halligan used OSU's latest Marshall and Truman scholar Brian McLaughlin as an example of a student who, through scholarships, has been able to accomplish much.
"It will allow us the ability to be competitive in the state of Oklahoma and indeed in the nation, and recruiting some really outstanding students to OSU," Halligan said.
Pickens' donation is his largest to OSU but not his first.
"I think that it's not only the gift that was announced today, but his gifts now total nearly $75 million to the university, and that's huge," Evans said. "That is significant. That has helped students in almost every aspect of our university family."
Evans said large gifts are common among universities, but they still send a message.
"I think it makes a statement of the quality of our university across the nation when they see someone step up and make that kind of contribution," Evans said.
Because of Pickens' contribution there has been talk of naming the new Lewis Field after him.
"He denied that twice," Watkins said. "He said that discussion would be held much later if at all. My feeling is of course we should name it after him, but I appreciate his humility."
Halligan summed the general feelings of many of those associated with OSU into one word: "spectacular."
Brandi Ball also contributed to this story.