NORMAN, Okla. — University of Oklahoma President David Boren, a former Democratic governor and U.S. senator, said Wednesday he will resign as head of the state’s flagship university at the end of the current school year.
Boren said he will step down on June 30 but that he has agreed to stay longer if a successor has not been selected by that time. He made the announcement during an address before a standing-room-only crowd of several hundred students, faculty and staff inside OU’s performing arts center.
“Our faculty has never been stronger. Our students have never had more potential,” Boren said. “I’ve always understood there would come a time when I would pass a baton to a new president. I believe the right time has come.”
The search to replace Boren will be conducted by the OU Board of Regents, which is currently led by Clay Bennett, owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team.
“It’s solely the job of the regents,” Boren said. “If they ask me for my advice, I’d say lean toward someone who loves the university.”
Boren, 76, has served as OU’s president since 1994, when he stepped down from his U.S. Senate post to accept the position as the school’s 13th president. He has taught a freshman-level political science course every year and has taken particular pride in his dedication to students and fostering a sense of community on the campus.
“It was always a challenge to walk across campus if you were trying to get to an event because he … would stop to visit with people, whether it was the gardeners and landscapers, a custodian, a student or a prospective student and their parents,” recalled Jeff Hickman, who was an undergraduate student at OU in 1994 when he served on the presidential search committee that selected Boren and later spent three years as Boren’s press secretary.
Boren’s tenure at OU has been marked with a furious pace for private fundraising and an explosion of construction across the university’s three campuses in Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. His first fundraising campaign set a five-year goal of $200 million and ended up exceeding $500 million in donations, launching the university’s endowment into the upper echelon of public universities.
The university boasts of more than $2 billion in construction projects completed or under way since he took office, including a $67 million National Weather Center, a natural history museum and major upgrades to its football stadium.
A graduate of Yale University, Boren was a Rhodes Scholar who earned a master’s degree from Oxford University and a law degree from the University of Oklahoma. He was elected governor in 1974 at the age 33 and at the time was the youngest governor in the country.
Boren was hospitalized for about a week in March after undergoing heart bypass surgery.
“I’ve just had the normal decline of energy that anyone who is coming up on 77 has, but my bypass surgery was a complete success, and particularly in the last few months … I have felt much stronger and much more like myself,” Boren said.
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