Oklahoma State University and alumni Kayleen and Larry Ferguson announced Jan. 15 a $50 million gift from the Ferguson Family Foundation that will transform the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources in a variety of ways, including a new name.
Pending approval from the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents, the college will be renamed the Ferguson College of Agriculture in recognition of the gift, which is among the largest in the university’s nearly 130-year history, the announcement said.
The funds will create a $25 million endowment for the college’s operations and will designate $25 million to kick-start a fundraising campaign for an innovative research and teaching building, Oklahoma State said.
Through the New Frontiers campaign, the university seeks to raise $50 million in private support for the planned $100 million teaching and research facility, with construction beginning in the spring of 2021.
Oklahoma State University president Burns Hargis said the Ferguson Family Foundation’s gift will have far-reaching benefits for the entire university, in addition to the multibillion-dollar agricultural and natural resource economies of Oklahoma and the region.
“Not only will we have the right tools in place with this wonderful new building, but the Fergusons’ gift ensures we can always recruit and support the brightest minds in the world. That impacts the way we teach, the way we research and how we share that information with others through [Oklahoma State] Extension who will benefit from our findings,” Hargis said. “The Ferguson College of Agriculture will be a destination for researchers, professors and students. One can only imagine what discoveries will be made and how the world will change because of the work being done in [Oklahoma State] Agriculture.”
Dr. Thomas G. Coon, Oklahoma State vice president for agricultural programs and dean of the renamed college, said the historic gift’s programming support and the cutting-edge facility will allow the Ferguson College of Agriculture to emerge as a leader in agricultural and natural resource programs across the country and around the world.
“This project will change and modernize our research and the way we teach scientific subjects. It all goes back to the premise of being a modern land-grant institution,” Coon said. “Research has the promise to change the way we grow food and care for the natural environment we rely on. It can transform Oklahoma’s economy, fostering innovation that will feed a growing world.”
The Fergusons had already begun transforming agricultural programs at Oklahoma State through their contributions to the Ferguson Family Dairy Center. The couple, who met as students in 1975, announced the lead gift for that project in 2015 and celebrated its grand opening in 2017. Since then, Oklahoma State has attracted students from across the country who want to be a part of the dairy program and live in Helms Hall. In total, Kayleen and Larry Ferguson have given nearly $55 million to Oklahoma State through the Ferguson Family Foundation.
Larry is the retired president and chief executive officer of Schreiber Foods, the world's largest employee-owned dairy company, and Kayleen is a retired educator who taught primarily English.
New Frontiers fundraising campaign
Through the New Frontiers campaign, the university seeks to raise $50 million in private support for the planned $100 million teaching and research facility for the Ferguson College of Agriculture.
To date, the university said about $30 million has been raised for the building, including the facilities portion of the Fergusons’ gift and commitments from five Cornerstone Donors, who have pledged at least $1 million to the project.
Architectural planning and programming have already begun on the new facility, which will be located north of the Henry Bellmon Research Center, near the aging Agricultural Hall. The existing Agricultural Hall has served the Division of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources since the late 1950s.
The new facility will include innovative and flexible teaching and research laboratories, dynamic classrooms, faculty offices, robust student service programs and a variety of strategically planned spaces to encourage collaboration, development of new Oklahoma State Extension programming and a sense of community.
The university is expected to break ground on the building next spring, with an expected completion date in the fall of 2023.