Fund Raising

Oil Tycoon T. Boone Pickens Pledges $100-Million More to Oklahoma State U.

February 26, 2010

T. Boone Pickens, the oilman and founder of the investment firm BP Capital Management, has pledged $100-million to Oklahoma State University to establish a scholarship endowment, Mr. Pickens and the university announced on Friday.

With the pledge, Mr. Pickens has committed nearly a half-billion dollars to the university.

Mr. Pickens is one of the nation's most-generous donors and has appeared four times on The Chronicle of Philanthropy's Philanthropy 50 list of the people who give the most to charity in one year. Including the new gift, Mr. Pickens has given at least $656.5-million to nonprofit groups since 2003. Mr. Pickens is also one of America's wealthiest men: Forbes magazine pegged his fortune at $1.15-billion in 2009.

Oklahoma State gets the lion's share of his gifts. He donated $63-million in 2008 and $165-million in 2005, both times for athletics facilities, and $55-million in 2003 for other purposes. He also gave a $100-million grant to the university through his T. Boone Pickens Foundation in 2008 to endow professorships.

Mr. Pickens, who graduated from the university in 1951, said in an interview that the institution would receive the money upon his death.

V. Burns Hargis, president of Oklahoma State, said he first approached Mr. Pickens last fall about making another large donation.

"We're trying to raise $500-million in scholarship endowment, and we need the money now," said Mr. Hargis. "I told him we can't make it without him. I knew if he did it, a lot of other people would be motivated by this."

Billion-Dollar Drive

To date the university has raised more than $473-million toward a $1-billion capital campaign, and Mr. Hargis hopes that Mr. Pickens's latest pledge will encourage other almumni to donate to the campaign, which entered its public phase on Friday.

Mr. Pickens said he was giving the $100-million to the university both to endow merit scholarships and to provide financial assistance for students who otherwise could not afford to attend the university.

"Our school will be better because of it," said Mr. Pickens, referring to his pledge. "You know, we're a land-grant school, and I think the plan when land-grant schools were set up was so that anyone who wanted to attend could, and I think this just furthers that."

Because of the volatile financial market, Mr. Pickens had pulled back from making large gifts in the last year, but he said he now hoped to continue his philanthropic giving in the years to come: "We're back up and going again."

Maria Di Mento is an associate editor at The Chronicle of Philanthropy.