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OU President David Boren Begins 50 Years of Public Service

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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.

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