Oklahoma State University mourned the loss of OSU legend Thomas Boone Pickens Jr. on Wednesday, Sept. 11, when the 91-year old American capitalist and extreme donor to OSU athletics was pronounced dead of natural causes.
“All of us in the Oklahoma State University family are deeply saddened by the passing of Boone Pickens,” said President Burns Hargis in an email addressed to students and staff. “At the same time, we join in celebrating his incredible life. He was the ultimate cowboy.”
Pickens had been major contributor to Oklahoma State’s football program and was the second largest booster in college sports totaling $652 million given back to OSU only surpassed by Phil Knight, who has given $771 million to the University of Oregon.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without him there,” said Blake Jarwin, former OSU star and Dallas Cowboys tight end. “Today is a tough day for all the Pokes out there.”
Pickens, Oklahoma State alumni and billionaire oil tycoon, was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma, on May 22, 1928. Heading his father’s words, “A fool with a plan can outsmart a genius without one every time.” Pickens soon got to work. He graduated from OSU in 1951 with a degree in geology and spent his adult life in Texas searching for oil. In 1956, he found Mesa Petroleum, a premiere independent natural gas and oil company.
OSU’s football stadium, previously known as Lewis Field, was officially named Boone Pickens Stadium in a ceremony that took place during halftime of the OSU vs. Wyoming game in 2003 after Pickens donated a generous $165 million to the university to revamp the stadium completely. This was the largest single donation to an institution of higher education in American history.
“The greatest Cowboy of them all has taken his last ride,” said Mike Holder. “It will never be the same again. We could never thank him enough for all that he did for our university,” said Holder. “Great ride Cowboy, great ride!”
A faithful and dedicated graduate, Pickens transformed not only the athletic program but the entire campus. With a stadium bearing his name, the Cowboys now play their home football games in Stillwater. Before his donation, the Cowboys had struggled to obtain double-digit wins. Since then, they have won 10 or more games in six seasons.
“He was just an old country boy from Holdenville, Oklahoma, but he could think his way around any Noble Prize winner,” said Burns Hargis. “Boone was a legend, a change agent, a life force that rarely comes along.”
Pickens passed away in his Dallas home due to natural causes surrounded by family and loved ones. He suffered head injuries and multiple strokes after a fall in 2017 and had been on hospice for the last week.
President Hargis announced that Oklahoma State University will hold a public “Celebration of Life” ceremony for Boone Pickens at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Dates have yet to be determined. The Cowboys will pay tribute to Pickens with a helmet decal the players will be wearing the rest of the season.
“Mr. Pickens is a big part of our success,” Head coach of the Cowboys Mike Gundy said. “We’re thankful for the last impact he’s had on Oklahoma State. It would have been difficult to climb as high as we did without him. He will be missed, but his legacy here will live on for a long time.”