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President Shrum's Inaugural Address

Friday, August 26, 2022

Dr. Kayse Shrum was inaugurated as the 19th president of Oklahoma State University on Aug. 26, 2022 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The historic event was attended by dignitaries, faculty and staff and countless members of the Cowboy family, both in person and online via livestream. Below is a transcription of Shrum's inauguration speech.

Thank you, Regent Callahan.


And thank you – family, friends, members of the Cowboy family.


To Darren and the kids, thank you for your love, your grace, your support; this is a team sport. 


To my parents, thank you for giving me the foundation I needed to be successful in life.  


To so many who have helped make this day possible, thank you.


And to my OSU family, thank you for coming to my inauguration.


With an arena full of the “loyal and true” — and a bright orange future in front of us — it’s a great day to be an OSU Cowboy!


It is the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your president.


Today is beyond humbling for this small-town girl from Coweta, Oklahoma.


I was 13 the first time I visited Oklahoma State University to attend a softball camp.


Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that someday I would be on this stage — an experienced physician educated through the OSU system, the former dean of the OSU medical school and president of the OSU Center for Health Sciences, now the president of the entire university system.


Such a possibility was unimaginable for a girl like me.


But in many ways, that’s exactly what this place was created to do. Let me say more on that in a moment.


For those of us who have given our lives over to education, everything we do revolves around the student. Campus has come alive this past week as we welcome the largest class of freshman  in our school’s history.


One of the great joys of my position is the opportunity to engage with these students on a daily basis — in the hallways, outside their classrooms and all around campus.


When I do, I often share with them that, regardless of where your journey in life takes you, it is important to never forget who or what got you there.


So many people helped me along the way.


I am the product of amazing parents, mentors, colleagues and a support system that encouraged and empowered me.


My parents inspired me to dream big. They taught me the value of hard work and determination, often telling me I could become anything in this life if I was willing to work hard.


Today is proof they were right. It is also proof that I was listening. 


I am blessed that my physiology professor saw something in me I did not see in myself and took the time to invest in me. Because he did, I was able to pursue a career in medicine, to practice the sacred craft of healing and to eventually teach others to do the same — impacting society at an intensely personal level.


I am honored to stand in a long line of leaders of this university who came before me and laid the foundation for the success we enjoy today: Leaders like Henry Bennett, whose bold vision created a 25-year master plan for campus development and gave us the iconic Edmon Low Library; Leaders like Jim Halligan, who elevated the University’s stature while literally “raising the roof” on the very building we sit in today; Leaders like Burns Hargis, who set me on this course by appointing me president of the OSU Center for Health Sciences and encouraging me at every turn.


He raised the standard for what can be accomplished when we dream big and work together. Thank you, Burns.


In recent years, we have witnessed incredible growth and progress at Oklahoma State.


Thanks to our generous donors, we have unrivaled facilities — from stadiums and concert halls, to research labs and modern classrooms.


For example, the McKnight Center for the Performing Arts and the Greenwood School of Music are world-class treasures that are bringing incredible learning opportunities to our campus.


This fall, they will welcome the return of the New York Philharmonic for concerts and master classes to kick off a new three-year partnership with the renowned orchestra.


The university also celebrated the opening of state-of-the art engineering and aerospace facilities — including the Unmanned Systems Research Institute and ENDEAVOR – and the new Spears School of Business Building, which gave our powerhouse business school a historic upgrade.


In recent days, we have laid the foundation for national prominence and global impact through: The National Center for Wellness and Recovery, The Hamm Institute for American Energy at Oklahoma State University, The Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education, and the state-of-the-art teaching, research and Extension facility opening next year for the Ferguson College of Agriculture — just to name a few.


It’s a thrilling and humbling moment to lead OSU, and I sincerely believe our best days are ahead of us … and not very far ahead at all. 


But ultimately, while I have the opportunity to stand behind this microphone, today is not about me. It’s about us.


And it’s about how we can take this remarkable place and leverage it to create opportunity for a new generation of servant-leaders.


As I’ve reflected this past year on Cowboy culture and the Cowboy Code that binds us together, it has led me to consider what it really means to be a land-grant university.


What is it that makes this place so special?


What is it that makes the Cowboy family truly a family?


Is it that we are nice? 


We are nice, but that can’t be all.


Is it that we always get along?


Well, we Cowboys tend to do so … but if your family is anything like mine, we can have our differences even as we commit to loving each other.


It has to be something more than that.


What is it that has bound us together as the Cowboy family., through thick and thin, through triumph and tragedy?


And what is it that will propel us into the future?


In a moment of cultural confusion about who does and does not belong — who may or may not have access to advancement — the land-grant mission long ago answered that question with sharp moral clarity.


Our peerless Cowboy culture is in part an outgrowth of our unique land-grant story — a tale rooted in broad opportunity and founded on inclusive excellence.


When President Lincoln breathed life into the land-grant system, he ushered in an era of higher education aimed at lifting an entire new class of citizens toward the American Dream.


No longer would higher learning and the benefits it brought be reserved for the privileged few. Instead, it would extend to the women and men of a new industrial class:  the daughters and sons of an aspiring generation for whom the land-grants would offer its empowering “practical and liberal education.”


We here today — we students, faculty, staff, alumni — we COWBOYS — we are the offspring of that expansive vision — the progeny of that powerful promise.


I am here today because our forebearers dared to dream what a land-grant university might do, though even they may have failed to imagine it could take a girl from a rural small town and give her the reins of a mighty university.


And in the coming days we intend to seize on that very vision, to carry Lincoln’s ideal forward with renewed energy and fierce commitment.


Oklahoma State will be the place where all people can belong, where they can grow, be valued and be cultivated into the servant-leaders they were meant to be.


From every rural corner of our state, to the urban corridors, we will seek to educate students, not only for technical excellence, but also in professional preparedness, engaged citizenship, ethical leadership and personal responsibility.


We are land-grant, and that means we step into a singular tradition.


Through teaching, research and Extension, we steward a timeless responsibility: to raise successive generations of servant leaders to engage as vital members of their communities, to bring research and new knowledge to bear to prepare students for the world they will enter, and to extend critical knowledge and expertise to meet society’s most pressing problems — the grand challenges facing civilization.


As a land-grant university, we stand for a compelling set of values … distinct from other higher education institutions.


We instill individual leadership in pursuit of the common good. We nurture career competence as a means of cultivating communities. We unapologetically stand as an economic development engine for the people we serve, addressing the imminent needs of a diverse society.


I believe, now more than ever, our state and our nation need the students land-grants graduate. 


I think the world requires the practical, applicable innovation that land-grants create.


I know Oklahoma demands the innovation that its land-grant generates in all corners of our state.


And we are the one to meet these challenges.


In seizing upon our unparalleled public trust, we will be keenly alert to the needs of our state and its workforce, not aloof from the reality of our economy.


We will be directly engaged with our communities, not distant observers of the problems.


We will strive to be elite in all we undertake, but we will never be elitist.


That’s not the Cowboy way.


Instead, firmly rooted in the vibrant land-grant tradition, we will humbly and resolutely extend our impact and influence to meet this critical moment.


We exist to make good communities great and do so by working hand-in-hand with them.


Oklahoma needs us today more than ever.


Through times of tremendous tumult and great societal change, the land-grant universities stand timeless, and OSU’s time is now. 


Oklahoma State University intends to become the nation’s preeminent land-grant university. 


What do I mean when I say that?


OSU intends to bring teaching, research and Extension to bear to meet Oklahoma’s greatest challenges better than any other land-grant university ever has for its home state.


In November of last year, I announced a process to guide the university in obtaining such land-grant preeminence.


After months of listening, hundreds of hours of information gathering and diligent service from the steering committee, working groups and many of you here today, the plan is nearly complete.


The strategy committee will unveil the blueprints for the next era of OSU in the coming weeks.


Every college, school, campus, department and division within our university system has a role to play in achieving land-grant preeminence.


Every faculty member, every staff professional, every county Extension officer and every alum, we all have a part in achieving the vision we share.


We have the world-class faculty.


We have skilled and committed staff.


We have the bright promise of our student body and the storied legacy and support of hundreds of thousands of alumni.


Today, I invite all of you to join me in embarking on a new era of ambitious progress at Oklahoma State University.


Here at OSU, we know we belong to the land.


I invite you to join me as we go where no land-grant has ever gone.


It’s a great day to be a Cowboy.


Go Pokes!

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