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T. Boone Pickens, Oklahoma State mega-booster, dies at 91

The oil tycoon donated more than $500 million to his alma mater.

Texas Tech v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Oklahoma State alumnus and mega-booster Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr. died Wednesday at his home in Dallas. He was 91 years old.

Pickens was born May 22, 1928, and grew up in Holdenville, Oklahoma. His family moved to Amarillo, Texas, and he attended Texas A&M University on a basketball scholarship before transferring to Oklahoma A&M, which is now called Oklahoma State. He graduated in 1951 with a degree in geology and started to work at Phillips Petroleum.

In 1964, he founded Mesa Petroleum and within three decades the company had become one of the largest independent oil companies in the world. In 1991, he founded BP Capital Management and became a billionaire.

Pickens’ more than $500 million in donations forever changed the landscape of OSU athletics department, including a $165 million donation in 2006 — the largest single donation to an athletic department to an American university. The Cowboys’ football stadium is named after him.

“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. “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’ donations were split between athletics and academics, and OSU’s geology school now being named the Boone Pickens School of Geology.

“The greatest Cowboy of them all has taken his last ride. It will never be the same again.” OSU athletic director Mike Holder said in a statement. “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 is survived by five children: Deborah Pickens, Pat Pickens Grace, Michael Pickens, Tom Pickens and Liz Pickens Cordia; 11 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

OSU will hold a public “Celebration of Life” ceremony for Pickens at Gallagher-Iba Arena. A date has not been set for the event. He will be buried at Karsten Creek Golf Club, home to OSU’s golf team.