Skip Navigation

OU President David Boren Begins 50 Years of Public Service

OU Public Affairs WebsiteOU homepagePublic Affairs homepage
Skip Side Navigation

OU President David Boren Begins 50 Years of Public Service

David Boren on his inauguration as President of the University of Oklahoma




NORMAN – OU President David Boren begins his 50th year of public service this month. The OU Board of Regents passed a resolution of congratulations at its meeting on Jan. 26.

Boren, originally from Seminole, is the first person in state history to have served as Governor of Oklahoma, U.S. Senator, President of the University of Oklahoma, and as a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

As an elected official, Boren championed reforms in government and ran with a broom as his symbol. He led efforts to pass open meetings laws for public bodies, legislation to require all legislative votes to be recorded, campaign finance disclosure, and reform of competitive bidding procedures.

He started the first educational programs for gifted and talented students, and he helped make Oklahoma one of the top five states in the nation for increases in education during his term. He helped co-author bills to establish the state Vo-Tech system and state-funded community colleges.

He was the founding governor of the Oklahoma Arts Institute. Under his leadership, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence was established. He continues to serve as its chair.

As Governor, he set up voluntary work programs for welfare recipients at state institutions and for a state trails system which reduced the welfare rolls in the state.

In his role as United States Senator, he authored the National Security Education Act, which established the largest overseas scholarship program for American students since the Fulbright Program.

As a champion of human rights around the world, Boren played an active role in the release of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. He and Molly Shi Boren were Senate hosts for Mandela’s first visit to the nation’s capital.

As the longest-serving chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, he passed major reforms providing more oversight of secret intelligence programs.

A proponent of tax reform, Boren passed changes at both the state and federal level to end inheritance taxes between husbands and wives. He also led the effort to cut state income taxes by allowing Oklahomans to deduct federal tax payments on state income tax returns.

Boren, along with the late Senator Barry Goldwater, championed the cause of campaign finance reform in Congress.

During his 16 years in the Senate, Boren was truly bipartisan, bringing both parties together for the good of our nation. He was also a tireless and unparalleled advocate for the progress of our State and all Oklahomans. 

As a candidate for office, he set national and state records. When he ran for re-election in 1984, he and President Reagan each received over 70 percent of the vote — making Oklahoma first in the nation in ticket splitting. In 1990, he received the highest percentage of the vote of any U.S. Senator in the nation up for re-election. The Almanac of American Politics listed him among the top five most influential U.S. Senators.

At OU, he has initiated more than 35 new programs and has led the effort to raise over $2.5 billion in private gifts for the university. The efforts of President and Mrs. Boren have resulted in OU’s ranking among the 25 most beautiful campuses in America. OU’s three campuses have increased endowed faculty positions from 94 to 562, and private scholarships for students have quadrupled.

Among the new programs that have been created are the Honors College, the College of International Studies, the Institute for Quality Communities and the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage. The Stephenson Cancer Center and the Hamm Diabetes Center have been established at the OU Health Sciences Center, as well as new facilities for the College of Allied Health, major landscaping of the campus and the construction of a student union. During Boren’s tenure, a new home for OU-Tulsa has been established at the Schusterman Campus. OU also established the TU-OU School of Community Medicine in partnership with the University of Tulsa.

Under Boren’s leadership, the Presbyterian Research Park in Oklahoma City became the OU Research Park. The research campus he helped to establish on the Norman campus was named the best college research campus in the nation.

During his tenure, OU has repeatedly had the highest academically ranked student body in state history.

In addition, OU has been the only public university in U.S. history to rank first among all universities — public or private — in National Merit Scholars enrolled.

During the Boren years, OU became the only U.S. university to have students who won the Rhodes, Marshall, Mitchell, Goldwater, Fulbright and Truman scholarships in the same year.


Quotes from friends on the leadership and public service of David Boren:

“David Boren is a Renaissance Man who has dedicated his life to bringing a Renaissance to Oklahoma. A public intellectual, he inspires us to fulfill the best of our values. A mentor to many younger associates, myself included, he teaches them to reach for the stars. A founder of institutes for academics and the arts, he reminds us that these are the true infrastructures that connect us as a people. I know of no Oklahoman who has had a more positive effect on his beloved state and his alma mater,” said Robert Henry, President of Oklahoma City University.

“I have admired David Boren from the time he began his career as a public servant in the Oklahoma legislature. As a state, we are indebted to him for his bold and steadfast leadership as Governor. He served with distinction as an influential and admired United States Senator. As President of the University of Oklahoma, he has worked tirelessly to advance the scope and prominence of the university. As President of Oklahoma State University, it is my pleasure to extend our sincere congratulations to President Boren for 50 years of distinguished service to our state and nation,” said Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis.

“David Boren has not only served Oklahoma for 50 years in a variety of positions, he is clearly the most consequential Oklahoma leader since the late Senator Robert S. Kerr. As a young state legislator and governor, a leader in the United States Senate and as President of the University of Oklahoma, David Boren has impacted our state and its citizens more positively and more profoundly than any other Oklahoman of the era. As a fellow Oklahoman I thank and celebrate him for his decades of distinguished service. Every Oklahoman has benefited from his tireless advocacy for our state and its people,” said Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole.   

“David Boren has been one of America’s greatest public servants for over five decades. One of his many accomplishments has been his steadfast willingness to set aside partisan politics to best serve the people of Oklahoma and the United States,” said Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011.

“As legislator, governor, senator and university president, David Boren had the greatest impact on Oklahoma of any single person in the past 50 years,” said Oklahoma City attorney Bob Burke.

“In our family for three generations, David Boren has stood as a guide star of our public service and great generosity,” said Peggy V. Helmerich, philanthropist, civic and state leader.

“If I were teaching Oklahoma History again at McAlester High, I would cite to my students that David Boren is the classic example of Public Service in any area where he has served.  Whether in government offices or higher education, David has not only led but has equally contributed to the well being of our state and country. It has been my pleasure to work alongside and to now join the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents in saying to David Boren, 'Well done 'thou good and faithful servant',” said George Nigh, American politician and civic leader, former Oklahoma Governor, Lt. Governor and President of the University of Central Oklahoma.

“I am delighted to congratulate David L. Boren, my mentor, loyal friend and fierce champion, as we celebrate his fifty years of public service. As Oklahoma Governor and United States Senator, he set an example of integrity, cooperation, and statesmanship that could and should light a path for our state and national politics. He has exhibited exceptional courage in ensuring that the University of Oklahoma is a place of welcome and equality for a diverse and dynamic population of students and faculty,” said Vicki Miles-LaGrange, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma.

“Without any reservations, I can say President Boren is Oklahoma’s greatest public servant. He serves with his whole heart and through his work, it is evident that people are his purpose. He’s given his whole life to the people of our state, our country and the University of Oklahoma, especially us students. Oklahoma is finer because of him,” said J.D. Baker, president of the OU Student Government Association.

Recent News

Irungu Named Interim Associate Vice President of University Community

Jane Irungu

The University of Oklahoma announced today that Jane Irungu will serve as the interim associate vice president for university community at the University of Oklahoma. She will join the staff of the Office of University Community beginning Aug. 20. A search committee comprised of 10 faculty and staff members of the university submitted their recommendations to OU President James L. Gallogly for his selection.

Read More

OU Looks Forward with Reorganized Administration

Seed Sower Norman statue

NORMAN –The University of Oklahoma announced today an executive restructuring aimed to streamline reporting, bring in fresh, diverse perspectives, and improve its cost structure. The reorganization reduces the number of executives who report to the President from 25 to 17, a 32 percent reduction. The executive staff includes not only Norman campus leaders, but also individuals with Health Sciences Center, Tulsa and university-wide responsibilities.


OU's Radar Team Developing Fastest, Most Advanced Radar in the Nation

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN -The University of Oklahoma’s Advanced Radar Research Center team is developing the fastest, most advanced radar in the nation with a $3.4 and $3.1 million SENSR grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. HORUS, an all-digital polarimetric phased array radar, can scan the atmosphere in 30 seconds or less and distinguish between snowflakes, raindrops, hail stones or other targets within a storm. Rapid scans of the atmosphere and hydrometeor classification, among other polarimetric radar capabilities, are critical for forecasting and prediction. Read more


OU SMART-R Team Reveals Threats During Hurricane Florence Landfall

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN -The University of Oklahoma Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching radar team set up a mobile C-band radar on the shoulder of I-140 on the Cape Fear River bridge west of Wilmington, North Carolina, during Hurricane Florence landfall. Four OU and Purdue University portable integrated precipitation systems were placed in open fields southwest of Wilmington to measure raindrop sizes, winds, temperature, humidity and pressure. Sean Waugh, NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, launched weather balloons into the eye of the storm from Wrightsville Beach and the Wilmington International Airport. Read more


OU IT Team Receives NSF Instrumentation Grant for Research Data Archiving

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN - A University of Oklahoma team, led by Henry Neeman, is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant in the amount of $967,755 for a new academic research data storage instrument—a massive tape archive known as the OU and Regional Research Store, which will serve as a national model for affordable, large-scale, multi-institutional storage. Read more


OU SMART Radar Team Departs for East Coast to Intercept Hurricane Florence

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN - The University of Oklahoma’s Shared Mobile and Atmospheric Research and Teaching radar team, led by Michael Biggerstaff, departed for the East Coast Sunday afternoon to intercept Hurricane Florence with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. The team will encounter Hurricane Florence, a possible Category 3 or 4 hurricane, at landfall later this week. Read more


OU Professor Selected for 2019 ASM Environmental Research Award

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN - A University of Oklahoma professor, Jizhong Zhou, is the recipient of the 2019 American Society for Microbiology Award for Environmental Research for significant accomplishments in the field of microbiology. The award will be presented at the ASM Microbe meeting in San Francisco, California, in June 2019.Read more


OU Research Addresses Concerns of South-Central Plains Region with NSF Instrumentation Grant

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN - A University of Oklahoma research group, led by Mark Nanny, is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant in the amount of $396,778. The Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer with Laser Ablation and Liquid Chromatography capabilities will enable collaboration among researchers at OU, Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa in specific areas of research and coordination with Oklahoma Tribal Nations in various research projects. Read more


OU Team to Develop New Methods to Track Bird Migration and Adaptability

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN - A University of Oklahoma research team of biologists and meteorologists will develop and employ advanced methods to monitor birds during migratory flights and assess the atmospheric conditions in which they fly. The project will involve unmanned aerial vehicles as well as novel tracking devices developed by OU researchers. The devices will be attached to migratory birds and will reveal the environments experienced by birds in flight and provide new insights into the dynamics of the lower atmosphere. Read more


SMART Radar Results Show Hurricane Harvey Category 3, Not Category 4

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN - University of Oklahoma meteorologists, Michael Biggerstaff and Addison Alford, recently presented results collected from landfall of Hurricane Harvey in Corpus Christi, Texas, one year ago. Data collected with the OU Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching and National Weather Service radars showed maximum sustained surface winds of 112 miles per hour. A Category 3 hurricane has sustained winds of 111 to 129 mph. Read more


Oklahoma Women Impacting STEM and Entrepreneurship Conference

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN -The inaugural Oklahoma Women Impacting STEM and Entrepreneurship Conference is scheduled for Sept. 14, 2018, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Catalyst Programs, an office of the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma, is hosting the conference with the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Toast Design Studios, Devon Energy, Lobeck-Taylor Family Foundation, Citizens Bank of Edmond, Association for Women in Science, Oklahoma Women in Technology, Women’s Energy Network, Society of Women Engineers, REI Oklahoma, DayCreative and more. Read more


OK Catalyst Program Teaches Students to Launch Business

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN -The Tom Love Innovation Hub held its inaugural Oklahoma Catalyst Researchers Program this summer with 29 graduate students from the University of Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma State University and the University of Tulsa. The participants explored how to launch a business based on their graduate research. Read more

OU to Lead U.S. Stream Drying Study with $3 Million in NSF Grants

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN -A University of Oklahoma professor, Daniel C. Allen, will lead one of the first coordinated ecology research projects to study what happens to streams as they dry across the United States. The National Science Foundation funded the study with a $1.4 million grant to OU and $1.6 million in grants to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley; Northern Arizona University; University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and University of Arizona. Read more

Climate Warming Affects Tallgrass Prairie Ecosystem

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN -A University of Oklahoma professor, Jizhong Zhou, and his team have completed a new study on the effects of climate warming on soil microbes in a long-term climate change experiment at a tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The new study shows that climate warming will affect microbial communities in the future, and future community states will be more predictable under warmed climate. Eventually, microbial communities will produce different functions and feedbacks to climate warming. Read more

OU Biologist Developing Network of Researchers and Data from Intermittent Rivers

Pigeon Creek

NORMAN -A University of Oklahoma professor, Daniel Allen, is developing an intermittent river research coordination network of ecologists and hydrologists to better understand the half of the Earth’s rivers that dry or stop flowing each year. Allen and other participants will compile existing ecological and hydrological data from across the nation for the network with a four-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Read more

Stephenson Cancer Center Earns National Cancer Institute Designation

Daniel Hayden

NORMAN -National, state and local leaders joined the Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma today to celebrate the center’s designation as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center. With this award, the Stephenson Cancer Center joins an elite group of 70 NCI-Designated Cancer Centers nationwide. Read more

OU Research Team Identifies Genetic Structure of Painted Bunting

Face of Bizzell Library

NORMAN –A University of Oklahoma researcher, Andrea Contina, and his team have identified the genetic structure of the Painted Bunting, a neotropical migratory songbird, using microsatellite DNA and single nucleotide polymorphisms to develop high-resolution markers to differentiate between individual birds breeding in different Oklahoma populations and across the United States. Through this research, Contina and his team now can differentiate between the eastern and western Painted Buntings and identify the species pattern of migration and population of origin. Read More

OU Institute Awarded Grant to Advance the Self, Virtue and Public Life Porject

Face of Bizzell Library

NORMAN – The University of Oklahoma Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing is the recipient of a $3.9 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust to advance the “Self, Virtue and Public Life Project.” The grant will provide funding for new research projects, conferences, edited volumes and community outreach activities. The project is set to begin September 1, 2018, and conclude on August 31, 2021. Read More

OU Professor to Study New Possibilities in Quantum Networking

Face of Bizzell Library

NORMAN – A University of Oklahoma physics professor, Alberto Marino, is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development Program) Award in the amount of $500,000 to study new possibilities for the use of spatial degree of freedom in applications ranging from long-distance quantum communications to quantum imaging. Read More

Eight OU Students, Alumni Receive Fulbright Awards

Face of Bizzell Library

NORMAN – Eight University of Oklahoma students and alumni were named Fulbright grant recipients, which are awarded on the basis of academic excellence, achievement and leadership potential. Read More

OU Meteorologists Studying Arctic Atmospheric Barriers

Daniel Hayden

NORMAN - A University of Oklahoma meteorology team, led by Steven Cavallo, is studying the role of tropopause polar vortices as a barrier in limiting predictability over the Arctic with three, five-year grants totaling $2.9 million from the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research. TPVs occur in the upper troposphere of the Arctic, but the data doesn’t exist from this barren region to improve prediction. The OU team plans to conduct aircraft data-collection experiments during an international field campaign associated with the ‘Year of Polar Prediction.’ Read more

OU Student Receives Udall Scholarship

Daniel Hayden

NORMAN - University of Oklahoma honors student Daniel R. Hayden has been named a 2018 Udall Scholar. The Udall Foundation Scholarship recognizes undergraduate students who demonstrate a commitment to careers related to the environment or to Native American public policy or health care. Hayden is one of 50 nationwide selected for the honor. Read more

OU Professor to Receive IEEE Satellite Communications Technical Contribution Award

Mohammed Atiquzzaman

Mohammed Atiquzzaman, is the recipient of the prestigious Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Satellite Communications Technical Contribution Award for 2018. The annual award is given to an accomplished, senior-level researcher who has achieved outstanding results in satellite communications and recognizes excellent scientific contributions done by academia and industries. Atiquzzaman will receive the award at the IEEE International Conference on Communications in Kansas City, Missouri, May 20-24. Read more

OU Physicist Developing Quantum-Enhanced Sensors for Real-Life Applications

Albert Marino

A University of Oklahoma physicist, Alberto M. Marino, is developing quantum-enhanced sensors that could find their way into applications ranging from biomedical to chemical detection. In a new study, Marino’s team, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, demonstrates the ability of quantum states of light to enhance the sensitivities of state-of-the-art plasmonic sensors. The team presents the first implementation of a sensor with sensitivities considered state-of-the-art and shows how quantum-enhanced sensing can find its way into real-life applications. Read more

OU Class of 2018 Gift to Honor Borens

The Boren Green

NORMAN – The University of Oklahoma Class of 2018 will celebrate their time at OU through a dedicated green space that will add to OU’s national reputation as one of America’s most beautiful campuses. Located along Lindsey Street in front of the newly completed Residential Colleges, this year’s class gift will fund a picturesque lawn named The Boren Green. Read more

OU Students Receive National Security Education Program Award for International Study

The Boren Awards

NORMAN – University of Oklahoma senior James Ratcliff and OU junior Libby Trowbridge recently were selected as recipients of the prestigious Boren Award for International Study, sponsored by the National Security Education Program. Thirty-four OU students have received the award since the program began in 1994. Read more

News Archives

2017  | 2016  | 2015  | 2014  |  2013  


For requests for past releases, please contact OU Public Affairs at (405) 325-1701 or