Since its creation in 1890 as a result of the Morrill Act, 19 individuals have held the title of President at Oklahoma State University, which was known as Oklahoma A&M College until 1957.
Barker, A&M's first president, served from 1891-1894. He established the first academic departments, including agriculture and the ag experiment station. He participated in the land run and oversaw the dedication of Old Central. In heavily Democratic Oklahoma, he was dismissed for Republican leanings.
Henry E. Alvord
Appointed president of A&M and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, Alvord is credited for his analysis, reorganization and reform recommendations for the college. He left in 1895 to lead the dairy division in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Edmund D. Murdaugh
Murdaugh established the college's first press bureau, which soon helped increase the information flow from the university. He resigned over differences of opinion involving the operations of Agriculture Experiment Station, but went on to a successful career as the “father” of the state teacher college system.
George E. Morrow
Having gained a national reputation for supporting development of the Magruder Plots, Morrow brought stability and respect to Oklahoma A&M College and initiated extension work. He launched new construction, expanded faculty and added degrees in mechanical engineering and business. Morrow resigned for health reasons and died a year later.
Angelo C. Scott
After a stint as U.S. Commissioner for the Oklahoma Territory, Scott taught English and literature at A&M, wrote the school's first fight song, and planned Morrill Hall. He built up the faculty and used railroads to expand extension work. A&M was first called the “Princeton of the Prairie” under his leadership.
John H. Connell
Connell was named president after teaching agriculture at Texas A&M. He formally launched the Agricultural Extension Service and extension programs, increased enrollment, offered more degrees and guided a building boom on campus. He published two newspapers to promote the college.
James W. Cantwell
Cantwell believed students came first and supported new student organizations and expanded the music department. Known for recruiting faculty from major institutions, he envisioned a multipurpose university. He initiated officer training programs as World War I escalated and vocational retraining for veterans.
James B. Eskridge
The first A&M president with a PhD., Eskridge strove to help impoverished students and improve relations with state high schools. In 1923, Governor Walton had the Oklahoma National Guard remove Eskridge from campus in order to install his political favorite George Wilson.
Two thousand students marched on downtown Stillwater, 1,000 protested in Oklahoma City, and 100 jammed the governor's office. Despite Governor Walton's threat to impose martial law in Stillwater, Wilson was forced to resign.
A former USDA extension chief, Knapp set about to improve relations between the college and the citizens of Oklahoma. Agriculture, engineering and home economics were upgraded and special emphasis placed on faculty morale and budgeting. He was first to promote the college through radio.
Henry G. Bennett
Bennett brought tenure positions to A&M, formed the board of regents, saved Old Central from the wrecking ball, and fostered the first campus-wide building and beautification plan. After the war, he founded A&M Tech, now OSUIT. President Truman picked him to head the Point Four Program, which he was promoting when he and his wife died in a plane crash in 1951.
Oliver S. Willham
A former ag dean, Willham was the first A&M grad to lead the university. During his term, A&M became OSU, the OSU Foundation was created, 19 new buildings were financed and completed and enrollment nearly doubled to more than 15,000. He was known for his composure, sense of humor and public availability.
Robert B. Kamm
A former dean of arts and sciences, Kamm’s administration launched the Office of Affirmative Action, initiated the Emphasis People program, and established OSU-Oklahoma City. He guided the campus through the student unrest of the 60s, oversaw extensive construction and launched educational television.
Lawrence L. Boger
Boger's administration developed the campus's integrated communications system and helped bring the Oklahoma College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery into the OSU fold. OSU educational television uplinked to satellites to go international and he laid the ground work for what became OSU-Tulsa.
John R. Campbell
Campbell advanced OSU's leadership role in global higher education by furthering the development of distance learning. He emphasized research and graduate education, revised the student honors program and expanded OSU’s role in what would become OSU-Tulsa. The Noble Research Center and the Center for International Trade Development were completed on his watch.
Halligan saw the university through the Colorado plane crash that killed 10 of the OSU family. His administration emphasized scholarship and increased enrollment by expanding and centralizing student services and building new student housing. He oversaw renovation of Gallagher-Iba arena, construction of new campus research centers, and the formal launch of OSU-Tulsa.
David J. Schmidly
Schmidly initiated the first OSU strategic plan, encompassing the university's five
campuses and all of its units across Oklahoma. He increased visibility of the university
and emphasized its economic value to the state, the region, and the nation. He also
launched a new system-wide building plan and energy savings initiative, and enhanced
OSU's ability to attract top students and faculty.
(2007 - 2021)
Burns Hargis was named the 18th President of Oklahoma State University and the OSU System in December 2007 and took office March 10, 2008. On October 23, 2020, Hargis announced his plans to retire as president effective June 30, 2021. His tenure has been marked by record enrollment and record fundraising, with pledges and cash surpassing the $1 billion Branding Success campaign goal nearly two years ahead of schedule. In total, OSU raised more than $2.2 billion in private support and added more than 82,000 new donors during Hargis’ time as president. Hargis also oversaw a construction boom that transformed the OSU campus with new and enhanced facilities, and elevated OSU's national reputation for academic and research advances. Hargis received the state’s highest honor when he was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2009.