(STILLWATER, Okla., Sept. 9, 2022) — Burns Hargis is now larger than life on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater.
On Friday, the university unveiled a towering, 10-foot-high bronze statue of its 18th president between the Student Union and Edmon Low Library, across Library Lawn from another iconic OSU president — Henry Bennett.
The OSU/A&M Board of Regents began the process of creating this statue in 2020 when Hargis announced his retirement. Funds for the statue were raised in record time as friends of Hargis and OSU jumped at the chance to immortalize him in bronze.
“President Hargis will be remembered as a giant of a president as the history of OSU is written,” said OSU/A&M Board of Regents Chair Jarold Callahan. “The statue captures Burns with his hands on his hips, gazing at one of the many building projects that symbolize his expansive vision for the campus. President Hargis’ legacy reflects how he changed the landscape of the campus with new academic and athletic facilities, art and gardens. But his greatest contribution is how he changed the heart of the OSU faithful with a new confidence and pride in being an OSU Cowboy.
“Every day, countless students will walk under the watchful gaze of President Hargis in this busy intersection and every day we will be reminded of the legacy President Hargis left us in his love and commitment to everything orange. His inspirational time at OSU officially is blazoned in stone and bronze to last forever on the campus he walked for nearly 20 years — first as a regent and then for 13 years as president.”
Hargis called the dedication a “phenomenal honor,” thanking the large crowd of supporters for their ongoing support of OSU and his wife, Ann Hargis, for her unrelenting support and love for OSU. He also thanked President Kayse Shrum and spoke with excitement about the university’s trajectory under her leadership.
“I would like to say thank you to all the OSU family,” Hargis said. “Whether you are faculty, staff, alumni, donors or students, everybody has come together. I know that you will continue to coalesce behind Kayse’s leadership because you are in for a real good ride, I promise.”
His last achievement before retiring in 2021 was the establishment of the Hargis Leadership Institute, which encourages every student to explore and achieve their leadership potential. Under his tenure, OSU built 2.5 million square-feet of new facilities for academics, athletics and the arts. Hargis was the driving force behind the $1 billion Branding Success campaign, which attracted an anchor donation from philanthropist and OSU mega-supporter T. Boone Pickens.
Overall, nearly $2 billion in donor funds were raised under his leadership and tens of thousands of new donors were inspired to carry OSU into the future with their financial support.
The Hargis statue is the work of renowned Oklahoma artist and sculptor Mike Larsen. Larsen, who resides in Perkins, Oklahoma, was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2015 for the stature of his work both in painting and sculpting. His largest piece hangs in the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma. His smallest piece is perhaps his most famous — the Oklahoma Centennial stamp, which was created in 2007. He began work on the Hargis sculpture in 2021, and the statue was completed and bronzed at the Crucible Foundry in Norman, Oklahoma.
“Someone asked how we got the strong, confident, gentle look on Burns’ face for the statue. The answer is simple: He was looking at Ann while posing for the piece,” Larsen said.
Following the statue unveiling, the audience of dignitaries and well-wishers witnessed the dedication of the Orange Grove in honor of former First Cowgirl Ann Hargis.
Ann will be remembered in this combination fitness and garden spot on campus as a champion of health and well-being during her tenure as First Cowgirl. Ann began OSU’s journey to become America’s Healthiest Campus, co-founded the nation’s most comprehensive university-based pet therapy program — Pete’s Pet Posse — and was instrumental in the creation of its permanent on-campus home, the OSU Center for Pet Therapy.
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Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU has more than 33,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and more than 100 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 275,000 students to serve the state of Oklahoma, the nation and the world.