STILLWATER — Thomas Boone Pickens, oil tycoon and Oklahoma State University alumnus and super booster died Wednesday. Pickens was 91.
Pickens was born in Holdenville, Oklahoma. His final resting place is planned as Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater. According to an official statement from his website, there are memorials services planned for Dallas, Texas, and Stillwater.
Just last month, Pickens published his annual address to the media prior to football season, which took the form of a letter or blog post in the last few years as his health prevented him from doing press conferences at his namesake stadium. Then, Pickens said he believed the finish line was now in sight.
“Back in 2007, prior to the University of Georgia game with Oklahoma State in Athens, I sat with the media and gave my perspective on all things OSU football,” Pickens wrote. “I’ve carried that tradition forward annually, putting my thoughts in a letter in recent years as health issues have gotten the better of me. It’s a tradition I hope to continue as long as I can.
“‘As long as I can …’ That’s a sobering notion, more, I suspect, for me than for you. I’m a lifelong geologist, and, as a whole, we’re a pretty optimistic bunch. I love to tell the story – over and over – about the geologist who fell off a 10-story building and, whizzing past the fifth floor, hollered, ‘I’m not dead yet.’ At 91, I’m grateful for every added day, week, month and year.”
Pickens formed several start-up oil companies after working at Phillips following his graduation from Oklahoma A&M in 1951 with a degree in geology. He founded Mesa Petroleum, which grew into one of the largest independent oil companies in the world. He was a wildcatter turned corporate raider who became known as the “Oracle of Oil.”
He was so well-known that in 1985, he was on the cover of Time Magazine pictured holding a deck of cards with the headline, “The Takeover Game.”
Pickens sold Mesa and began the hedge fund BP Capital Management in 1997, which he ran until January 2018.
He became a proponent for alternative energy later in his career, specifically wind energy in the form of wind farms, which he helped fund many including in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, where he resided at his Mesa Vista Ranch.
His proposed Pickens Plan, intended to have the United States start using natural gas and alternative energy, had the support of President Barack Obama and had federal support, creating more wind farms across America’s middle corridor.
He was worth billions by the early 2000s and that’s when he began his philanthropy in earnest, wanting to take his alma mater to new heights.
Pickens was a major benefactor for OSU, and while he was well known for his athletic donations, he also had several on the academic side. More than half of his overall gifts were toward academics, including to the Boone Pickens School of Geology.
He donated $20 million to OSU in 2003, but in 2006 made one of the largest gifts ever received by a university’s athletics department with $165 million as part of his Next Level Campaign. In 2008, Pickens made a $100 million challenge gift to endow faculty positions.
Pickens donated $7 million to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. In 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Pickens chartered airplanes to transport dogs rescued from the floodwaters in New Orleans, Lousiana.
“All of us in the Oklahoma State University family are deeply saddened by the passing of Boone Pickens,” OSU President Burns Hargis said in a statement released by the university. “At the same time, we join in celebrating his incredible life. He was the ultimate Cowboy. It is impossible to calculate his full impact on Oklahoma State. His historic gifts to academics and athletics not only transformed the university, they inspired thousands of others to join in the transformation. OSU will not be the same without the legendary Boone Pickens, but his mark on our university will last forever.”
Pickens also was a major supporter politically, especially for the campaigns of George W. Bush. On Wednesday, Bush sent out this statement:
“T. Boone Pickens became a household name across the country because he was bold, imaginative, and daring,” Bush wrote. “He was successful – and more importantly, he generously shared his success with institutions and communities across Texas and Oklahoma. He loved the outdoors, his country, and his friends and family, and Laura and I send our condolences.”
Pickens is survived by five children — Deborah Pickens Stovall, Pam Pickens Grace, Michael Pickens, Tom Pickens and Liz Pickens Cordia — 11 grandchildren and an increasing number of great grandchildren.
Plans for a memorial ceremony at Highland Park Methodist Church in Dallas are pending. A later Celebration of Life event will occur at OSU’s Gallagher-Iba Arena, followed by burial on campus. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be sent to the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, 8117 Preston Road, Suite 260W, Dallas, Texas 75225. Donations will support the many charitable endeavors Pickens embraced during his life.
“On behalf of the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents, we remember today the remarkable life of our alumnus Boone Pickens. His eternal optimism, kindness and competitiveness inspired us always to reach higher. He never forgot his roots and his love for Oklahoma State University was incalculable,” Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents Chairman Tucker Link said in a statement. “We will be forever thankful to Boone Pickens for his big ideas, bold vision and unshakable spirit. There is no question that Boone Pickens put the ‘Bright’ in America’s Brightest Orange.”