Life Insurance Plans To Net Oklahoma State $280 Million

Saturday, September 8th 2007, 7:24 pm
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma State University officials said Saturday that 28 people agreed to participate in the first class of a school fundraising plan to buy $10 million life insurance policies that have OSU as the beneficiary.

The university honored the initial class of the ``Cowboy Gift of a Life Program'' Saturday before the Cowboys' football home opener against Florida Atlantic.

Oklahoma State mega-booster Boone Pickens, for whom the university's football stadium is named, is credited with coming up with the fundraising idea, believed to be the first of its kind for a major university. He is one of the 28 in the initial class.

``We are partners in a deal, and it's a good deal for our university,'' Pickens said. ``I think this is going to be much, much bigger than people here thought about.''

Under the program, the university pays the insurance premiums for the donors, who are all between the ages of 65 and 85. Larry Reece, the school's executive director of major gifts and development, has said Oklahoma State borrowed the $20 million for the insurance premiums on credit.

Athletic director Mike Holder has said the money from the policies will be used to endow athletic scholarships and pay for facilities and operations.

``This program was an ambitious and creating undertaking by the athletic department, and they are to be commended,'' OSU interim President Marlene Strathe said. ``We need to carefully review this and other initiatives to determine if they have application as we enhance our fundraising to provide essential support for scholarships, fellowships and scientific research.''

Pickens said after he proposed the idea to Oklahoma State athletic officials, he expected they might have difficulty in finding people willing to participate in the unique program.

But, Holder said, ``we did not receive a single no'' during the recruiting process for the program.

Pickens, the founder of Dallas-based energy investment fund BP Capital, has given more than $250 million to Oklahoma State, his alma mater, in recent years. He acknowledges some have expressed concern that the idea for the life-insurance program benefiting the school might seem morbid, but said he does not share that opinion.

``I didn't see it as morbid. I see it as loyal to the school,'' Pickens said.

Pickens said about 25 schools have approached Oklahoma State about the idea. He said when the Cowboys played at Georgia a week earlier, that university's president had asked to learn more details.

Oklahoma State plans to continue with the program and recruit another class of participants.

``You're talking about money for the school,'' Pickens said. ``You're always trying to raise money at every university, even Harvard and Yale. ... Why do we do that? It's because you have alums, that if they think their school is accomplishing something, if it's doing well, they want to be a part of that.”

“I think we have it spring-loaded (at Oklahoma State). They've waited a lot of years to see things happen, and now things are happening.''