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September 13, 2019

T. Boone Pickens, billionaire OK St. donor, dies

T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire oil tycoon whose money helped put Oklahoma State football on the map, died Wednesday.

Pickens had been battling a series of strokes and head injuries as a result of a fall he took in 2017, according to his spokesman, Jay Rosser.

Pickens' penchant for philanthropy and love for Oklahoma State football dovetailed in 2006 when he donated $165 million to the athletic program, the largest single gift in NCAA history.

"The greatest Cowboy of them all has taken his last ride," athletic director Mike Holder said in a statement. "It will never be the same again. We could never thank him enough for all that he did for our university. He gave us everything he had -- and all that he asked in return was that we play by the rules and dream big. He was living proof that anything is possible if you're wearing orange. 'Great ride Cowboy, great ride!'"

Pickens graduated from Oklahoma State in 1951 with a degree in geology when the university still went by Oklahoma A&M.

He wound up giving more than $300 million to Oklahoma State athletics. Pickens said last month in his annual letter to Oklahoma State fans that he checked with the university and learned he had donated $652 million overall through the years.

Pickens' initial contribution bankrolled several state-of-the-art athletic facilities, as well as a new football stadium, which was named after him.

"Unquestionably, $652 million is a lot, and there are no doubt critics out there who would champion it going for broader, societal issues,'' Pickens wrote last month. "I'm satisfied with my giving. I don't want a bigger suite or a better parking spot. Or yet another honorary degree. I want championships across the board.''

With sparkling facilities to attract recruits, that's exactly what Oklahoma State football became under Mike Gundy, whom Pickens had urged Holder to promote to head coach after Les Miles left for LSU in 2004.

Pickens was 91.


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