OKLAHOMA CITY – University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren today announced a leadership gift to the university from Ronnie K. Irani in support of the Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth, a student-centered experiential learning program at OU that specializes in technology consulting, software business development, social entrepreneurship and agile product design.
“The University of Oklahoma is deeply grateful to Ronnie K. Irani for this generous gift that will provide valuable resources to our students and faculty as they pursue innovative projects designed to stimulate growth in our state through the Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth,” Boren said. “This is one of the largest single gifts in the university’s history from someone who came to OU as an international student.”
In appreciation of this gift, Boren said he will recommend to the OU Board of Regents that they recognize the donor by naming the Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth in his honor.
Irani is a textbook American success story. After completing his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bombay University in India, he arrived at OU in 1977 to continue his education. Irani earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in petroleum engineering from OU and later an MBA from Oklahoma City University. Following graduation, Irani started his career in the energy industry with Woods Petroleum Corp. in Oklahoma City. In the years following, Irani held leadership positions with Louis Dreyfus Natural Gas Corp. and Dominion Resources, Inc. before launching his own company, RKI Exploration & Production in 2005. RKI was truly started from a blank sheet of paper; “it was a pure build, from ground zero. It was just me and my ideas,” Irani would later say.
“Ronnie Irani is a great Oklahoma entrepreneur whose generosity will ensure that generations of cross-disciplinary students have access to the resources necessary to advance the new ideas required to secure the lasting global competitiveness of our state and nation,” said Daniel Pullin, Dean of OU’s Michael F. Price College of Business and past Executive Director and Chairman of CCEW. “Like Ronnie himself, CCEW’s global reach supports technologies impacting over a dozen countries around the world with the resulting linkages benefiting Oklahoma startups and established businesses alike. The Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth represents one of the finest examples of OU’s commitment to provide distinctive educational and life experiences through creative activity in service of our state, nation and world.”
Half of the gift will be used to establish an endowment to support and enhance existing Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth programs and operations, including immersive learning experiences for OU students that allow them to create real-world solutions using software, business principles, sustainability best practices and consumer-driven feedback. The remainder of the gift will create an endowment to fund new initiatives and innovations that will expand the center’s high-impact programming and entrepreneurial consulting to graduate and undergraduate students, young professionals, entrepreneurs and community members in Norman, Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Irani, a successful entrepreneur himself, founded and grew RKI Exploration & Production into a multi-billion enterprise before he sold it to WPX Energy in 2015 in what Oil & Gas Investor called the “deal of the year.” He has over 37 years of experience as an executive and leader in the oil and natural gas industry and has served as chairman of several industry associations including the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board and Sustaining Oklahoma’s Energy Resources.
He has also served on numerous OU boards, including chairman of both the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy Board of Advisors and the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering Industry Advisory Board and vice chairman of OU’s International Programs Center. Irani is a current member of the Price College of Business Energy Institute Board of Visitors.
He is an avid supporter of OU and has also provided funds for an international student endowment to support and encourage international students through scholarships and leadership opportunities; the Dominion Scholars Program, which supports multicultural students in the Gallogly College of Engineering at OU; and a fellowship in the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering. Irani was also instrumental in creating and implementing the OERB Scholarship Program, which has awarded over 1,000 scholarships to OU students since 2005. In 2006, Irani was awarded the OU Regents’ Alumni Award in recognition of his superior dedication and service to the university.
Founded in 2006, the Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth is administered by the Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Division of the Michael F. Price College of Business, which is charged with providing cross-disciplinary entrepreneurial education for all OU students and furthering economic development activity on OU’s three campuses and beyond. The Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth first promoted the development of Oklahoma’s economy by giving students opportunities to engage in real-world, high-impact projects by working with university researchers and private-sector mentors. The center expanded in 2010 by adding the Software Business Accelerator and Social Entrepreneurship Program, which have spurred the growth of additional community development initiatives, such as the Oklahoma Funding Accelerator, The Mine and OK Coders.
CCEW now engages more than 60 interns, fellows and faculty across its high-touch programs each semester and reaches over 1,000 community members with events and programming in the university and broader community each year.