David L. Boren, the first person in state history to have served as Governor of Oklahoma, U.S. Senator and President of the University of Oklahoma, will deliver the University of Oklahoma’s Commencement address at 7 p.m. Friday, May 11, in The Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, 180 W. Brooks St.
A 1963 graduate of Yale University, Boren majored in American history, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in the top one percent of his class. He was selected as a Rhodes Scholar and earned a master’s degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford University, England, in 1965.
In 1968, he received a law degree from the OU College of Law, where he was on the Law Review, elected to the Order of the Coif and won the Bledsoe Prize as the outstanding graduate by a vote of the faculty.
Boren was the youngest governor in the nation when he served from 1974 to 1978. Known as a reformer, Boren campaigned with a broom as his symbol. During his term, he instituted many progressive programs, including conflict-of-interest rules, campaign-financing disclosure, stronger open meeting laws for public bodies, more competitive bidding on state government contracts and reform of the state’s prison system, including expanded education programs for first-time offenders and the largest expansion of the work-release program in state history. He advocated and signed into law the state’s Open Meeting Law in 1977.
Also during that time, Boren promoted key educational initiatives, including establishing the Oklahoma Arts Institute, the Scholar-Leadership Enrichment Program and the Oklahoma Physicians Manpower Training Program, which provides scholarships for medical students and medical personnel who commit to practice in underserved rural areas.
One of Boren’s most far-reaching projects in promoting quality education is the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, which he founded in 1985. The foundation recognizes outstanding public school students and teachers and helps establish private local foundations to provide academic endowment grants to local public schools.
During his time in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 1994, Boren served on the Senate Finance and Agriculture committees and was the longest-serving chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He has served as co-chair of the U.S. President’s bipartisan Intelligence Advisory Board. In 1992, he authored the National Security Education Act, which provides scholarships for study abroad and for learning additional languages. The following year, he authored legislation to restore the tax deductibility of gifts of appreciated property to universities.
For more than 10 years, he led the fight for congressional campaign finance reform and for legislation discouraging administration and congressional staff from cashing in on government experience and contacts by becoming lobbyists. In addition, he introduced legislation seeking to limit gifts and travel subsidies that government workers, including members of Congress, may receive from lobbyists. Boren also chaired the special 1992-93 Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, which worked to make the U.S. Congress more efficient by streamlining congressional bureaucracy, reducing staff sizes and reforming procedures to end legislative gridlock. Boren left the U.S. Senate in 1994 with an approval rating of 91 percent.
From 1988 to 1997, Boren served as a member of the Yale University Board of Trustees. His university experience also includes four years on the faculty of Oklahoma Baptist University, where he was chair of the Department of Political Science and chair of the Division of Social Sciences. In 1993, the American Association of University Professors presented Boren with the Henry Yost Award as Education Advocate of the Year.
Since 1994, the year Boren was named university president, OU has developed and emerged as a “pacesetter university in American public higher education,” with more than 30 new programs initiated since his inauguration. During his tenure, OU has ranked in the top ten public universities in private fundraising with over $3 billion raised from private donors. Private scholarships for students have quadrupled and endowed faculty positions have increased from 94 to over 550.
Throughout Boren’s presidency, OU has experienced significant improvement in academic rankings, program growth, private fundraising, national scholarship awards, internationalization, research output, graduation and retention rates, application numbers, student satisfaction, athletic achievement and every other major metric of institutional excellence. OU became the only public university in U.S. history to rank first among all universities, public or private, in National Merit Scholars enrolled. OU also became the only university in the nation whose students have won Goldwater, Truman, Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright and National Security Education Program scholarships all in the same year.
The dedication of First Lady Molly Shi Boren, who has led campus beautification efforts, has resulted in OU’s ranking among the 25 most beautiful campuses in America. Mrs. Boren also provided major leadership in the creation of the Institute for Quality Communities, which assists all Oklahoma communities with placemaking and community building. In addition, she championed a new program for religious studies.
Among the new programs that have been created during Boren’s presidency are the Honors College, the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage and the Dunham and Headington residential colleges.
At the OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, the Stephenson Cancer Center and Harold Hamm Diabetes Center have been established as well as new facilities for the College of Allied Health, major landscaping of the campus and construction of the David L. Boren Student Union.
During Boren’s tenure, a new home for OU-Tulsa has been established at the Schusterman Campus. Additionally, the Wayman Tisdale Specialty Health Clinic opened in north Tulsa. The TU-OU School of Community Medicine, the first of its kind in the nation, was created in partnership with the University of Tulsa.
In 2017, while celebrating 50 years in public service, Boren was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the country’s oldest and most distinguished honorary societies.
Upon his retirement in June, Boren will have served as OU’s president for over 23 years.
For more information about OU’s graduation ceremony, visit www.ou.edu/commencement.