Oklahoma Memorial Union hummed with pep-rally energy September 12 as spirit squads led fans through a rousing rendition of “Boomer Sooner,” pumped up by members of The Pride of Oklahoma marching band. Decorated with balloons and banners, Beaird Lounge was filled to overflowing as OU President David L. Boren made his way to the podium. The event, attended by dignitaries and donors, students and faculty, was indeed in celebration of a kick-off—not on Owen Field—but to announce the beginning of the University of Oklahoma’s 125th anniversary and its most ambitious fundraising campaign to date.
Surrounded by scholarship students, Boren announced the initiatives for the $500-million “Live On, University” campaign, led by a plan to boost OU’s $285-million scholarship endowment by $100 million.
“We are in danger of not developing this country’s potential,” said Boren. “We are losing opportunities. But we will not let the doors of opportunity swing shut at this University.”
Boren noted that the U.S. had slipped from first to 14th place in the world for producing college graduates. “We’re falling like a rock,” he said, “but we won’t let that happen here.”
The scholarships would assist undergraduate and graduate students across all majors and disciplines. OU has more than doubled its private scholarships in the past five years. Still, 57 percent of students and their families must take out loans to pay for college.
Jim Day, co-chair with Bonnie Kennedy of the “Live On, University” campaign, said Boren consistently advocates for the growth of the University—not only in size, but academically—by strengthening and invigorating faculty.
Among the campaign initiatives are endowments for faculty ellowships; university-wide initiatives, like the creation of a new School of Biomedical Engineering and new programs in business entrepreneurship and energy production; classroom and laboratory upgrades and residential colleges.
A silent phase of the campaign began in 2013. Longtime OU donors Tim Headington and Archie Dunham already have contributed to the residential colleges, which will be built across from Headington Hall on Lindsey Street. A cheer rose from the crowd when Boren announced the plan included a multi-story parking garage. Also $20 million of a $30-million goal to update and expand the physics department.
“Never before has the University of Oklahoma been in greater need of financial support from its alumni and friends,” Boren said. “We must continue to set the highest standards of educational excellence for this generation of students. It is an investment to secure our future.”
University-wide initiatives include:
$3 million to endow scholarships for students in the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work, both on the Norman and OU-Tulsa campuses.
$25 million to provide additional state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories for key energy programs.
$20 million to support the creation of OU’s residential colleges – on-campus living and learning communities for
students in their sophomore, junior and senior years that will strengthen OU’s position as a residential university.
A $10-million endowment for the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art to ensure that the museum is always positioned to preserve and expand its outstanding art collections, exhibits and programs.
A $5.1-million endowment for Presidential Teaching Fellowships in the Joe C. and Carole Kerr McClendon Honors College to increase opportunities for OU’s most talented faculty – across all colleges and departments – to teach some of OU’s most talented students in the small-class format of an honors course.
A $6-million endowment for the Institute for Quality Communities to increase understanding of the importance of quality planning for neighborhoods, towns and cities in Oklahoma.
A $5-million endowment for the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage to make OU a national model for integrating civic education into the college curriculum and endow the institute’s signature event – the annual Teach-In.
A $5-million endowment for OU’s Signature Study Abroad Program in Arezzo, Italy, to help operate and maintain this facility, which serves more than 250 OU students and faculty-in-residence on a year-round basis.
Boren said he would like to visit OU in another 125 years to see “what possibilities” had been attained, a reference to an oft-quoted line by OU’s first president, David Ross Boyd.
At the close of the press conference, Boren asked the crowd to be mindful as they sang the “OU Chant.”
“They are words of determination,” he said, “words that challenge us to make this University stronger and better and with more opportunities than ever before.”