Work continues on new home for OSU Agriculture


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Media Contact:
Mack Burke | Editorial Coordinator | 405-744-5540 | [email protected]

Cornerstone Donors and others celebrate groundbreaking of new $50 million building

This spring, Oklahoma State University celebrated the groundbreaking for the new home
of OSU Agriculture. Though rain forced the April 23 event indoors, the weather did
little to dampen the excitement as more than 350 people, including many donors, gathered
for one of the first in-person events on campus during the spring semester.

“This pandemic slowed down a lot of things over the past year, but it did not slow
the momentum for the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall,” then President Burns Hargis
said at the event. “Our Ferguson College of Agriculture friends and alumni are among
the most loyal in the Cowboy family.”

The facility will strengthen OSU Agriculture’s research, teaching and Extension missions,
while addressing two key challenges: attracting and retaining scientific leaders and
equipping collaborative teams with state-of-the-art laboratory and field facilities.
It will redefine what is possible for OSU Agriculture’s faculty, students, and the
industries and communities that depend on OSU’s important research.

Several Cornerstone Donors ceremoniously broke ground during the April 23 celebration.
Pictured are (from left): Jeff and Lynn Hilst, A.J. and Susan Jacques, Frank Robson,
Kay Ingersoll, Dr. Barry and Roxanne Pollard, John Groendyke, Kayleen and Larry Ferguson,
Blaire Atkinson, Burns Hargis and Dr. Thomas G. Coon.

“This project is going to help us position our faculty and our students in facilities
that will equip them with the skills, knowledge and the ability to work together in
order to help solve world hunger. It’s as simple as that,” said Dr. Thomas G. Coon,
OSU Agriculture vice president and dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture.

Oklahoma State is already affecting change in terms of addressing world hunger. OSU
recently received high marks from The Times Higher Education, which ranks universities
on how well they address the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Overall, OSU ranked eighth in the U.S. and 85th in the world in addressing all 17
goals set by the United Nations. OSU ranked second in the U.S. and 10th in the world
in addressing the goal of eliminating hunger by the year 2030.

“The Ferguson family has connected OSU with their family’s goal of helping to feed
the world, and this ranking shows that we’re making progress,” Coon said of lead donors
Kayleen and Larry Ferguson and the Ferguson Family Foundation.

“With these new investments in our programs represented by the New Frontiers Agricultural
Hall, we’re going to expand our impact even further in helping to end world hunger.”

The couple committed $50 million to OSU Agriculture in January 2020, and Hargis announced
the gift during a special event launching the New Frontiers campaign about a month
before the COVID-19 pandemic forced spring 2020 classes online.

Half of the funds will create an endowment to support operations at the Ferguson College
of Agriculture, and the other half will contribute to the $50 million fundraising
goal for the new facility, which is scheduled to open during the 2023-2024 school

The Fergusons said they wanted to inspire others to invest in education and the future
of OSU Agriculture, and they’ve done just that.

At the groundbreaking, they ceremoniously shoveled dirt on stage next to other Cornerstone
Donors who have given $1 million or more to the project. As of this magazine’s printing,
more than 375 donors have committed more than $45 million in private funds to the
project. Many of them attended the April 23 celebration, where donors were met with
a standing ovation. Coon said the reception was a striking reminder of the level of
dedication and commitment present in the OSU Agriculture family.

Cornerstone Donors

“The entire event was energizing and really helped build even more momentum for the
campaign,” he said.

Larry and Kayleen Ferguson echoed the sentiment, saying it was meaningful to meet
other people passionate about OSU Agriculture.

“The number of donors and participants present shows the importance of this project
for the future of not only OSU, but also the campaign to help feed the world,” they
wrote in an email. “Putting actual faces with donor names is so inspirational. Hearing
their backgrounds and interests shows the diversity the New Frontiers campaign brings
to OSU and the future around the world. We cannot wait to see the building and programs
come to life with professors, students and families.”

Jered and Lindsey Davidson were so moved by the event that they pledged $25,000 to
the project days later.

“The groundbreaking is what pushed us over the edge in the decision to make a gift.
It was the excitement for the great future the college has planned,” Jered said. “We
felt like it was our duty as alumni to make a commitment … We know the great investments
the college made in us.”

Jered earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics in 2009 and was selected
as the college’s outstanding senior. Lindsey earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural
leadership in 2010 before she added a master’s degree from OSU in 2015. In addition
to working as an attorney, Jered serves as the president of the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation.
Lindsey works as the digital manager for OSU Agricultural Communications Services,
and, until recently, had her office in the now-razed Agriculture North building.

“One unique impact is that the university has torn down my wife’s office building
to make room for the new building, but it’s symbolic of the consistent change that
we’ve witnessed from our time in the mid-2000s to now. The university is continuing
to make great strides forward,” Jered said. “We talked about gifts of all different
amounts, but we knew that our dollars could really go further earlier. If we can put
the college and the students of tomorrow in the best position we can today, why would
we wait to start our philanthropy years down the road?”

Dr. Cynda Clary, associate dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture, said it was
meaningful to see so many people invest in the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall.

“It’s really a privilege and honor for our students and faculty to know that there
are people who they have never met who are investing in their future,” she said. “We
are so appreciative of what all of these people have come together to do as donors.
They believe we can not only make a better Oklahoma, but a better United States and
a better world.

“They’re really making a commitment to serving people right and meeting their needs
… and that’s what their gift does. It makes it possible for us and inspires us to
explore new things and be able to make a bigger contribution.”

Story By:  Amanda O’Toole Mason

Photos By: Todd Johnson


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