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OSU Regents Select New School President

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -- The Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents on Tuesday unanimously named Oklahoma City businessman Burns Hargis as Oklahoma State University's 18th president. Hargis, 62, served on the regents' board until July, when he resigned, saying he wanted to consider applying for the presidency at his alma mater.

Because of a state statute that bars a person from being employed by a state board until a year after the person leaves the board, Hargis will not assume the OSU presidency until July.

OSU Provost and Senior Vice President Marlene Strathe, who has served as the university's interim president since March 1, will continue in that role until Hargis becomes the president.

Hargis, a 1967 OSU graduate, is only the second alumnus of the university to become its president.

"We should always aim to be the very best in everything we do and we must never lose sight of the fact that students are most important and providing them with a rich and rigorous learning environment should always be our top priority," Hargis told board members.

Before the regents' meeting, Hargis addressed OSU faculty, staff and students during an open forum.

During the forum, Hargis recounted his childhood, during which his family moved about 20 times. Despite his family's connections with the University of Texas, Hargis said, "I really wanted to go to Oklahoma State. This is the first place I really felt at home.

"I was physically here from 1963 to 1967, but I've been here all my life," he said. "This is home for me."

Hargis touted his fundraising ability and his experience in politics and government as being useful attributes for a university presidency. He said the fact he has not previously worked in the academic world shouldn't be an issue.

Hargis said academics are "obviously the core of our operation here, which is why you have to rely on talented people to organize and run that area." He mentioned in particular OSU Provost and Senior Vice President Marlene Strathe, who has served as the university's interim president since March 1.

If selected, Hargis would replace David Schmidly, who resigned earlier this year to become the president at the University of New Mexico. Schmidly had been OSU's president since November 2002.

Strathe has declined to answer questions about whether or not she applied for the permanent job.

Hargis is the vice chairman of BOK Financial Corp., which is the holding company of the state's largest bank, the Bank of Oklahoma. He unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1990.

A 33-member search committee has been in place since April. Lou Watkins, the regents' chairwoman, has said in a statement that "the national search was comprehensive."

A statement from the board last week announcing Tuesday's meeting did not name any other potential candidates.

After the announcement, an OSU professor questioned whether the university complied with Oklahoma's Open Meetings Act during the search process. Journalism professor Joey Senat, president of FOI (Freedom of Information) Oklahoma Inc., contended in an e-mail to board attorney Charles Drake that the search committee exercised "actual or de facto decision-making authority."

Drake has said the OSU search committee had not eliminated any candidates from the board of regents' consideration.

Among those attending the regents' meeting were state House Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah, and the state Senate's co-leaders, Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, and Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.

Related stories:

7/2/2007 OSU Board Of Regents Resignation

11/30/2007 OSU Regents To Consider Hargis For Presidency
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