Kayse Shrum
Dr. Kayse Shrum will become the 19th president of Oklahoma State University, as well as its first female president. (NonDoc)

After a lengthy executive session that lasted well into Friday night, the Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges named Dr. Kayse Shrum as Oklahoma State University’s 19th president and its first female president.

”I am humbled and honored by this announcement,” Shrum said in a press release. “I am also thrilled because outside of my dear family, OSU has a special place in my heart. Leading the OSU Center for Health Sciences and helping students, faculty and staff come together to create something truly impactful to our state has been immensely rewarding for me. To lead our vibrant university and the system, which is so vital to our state on many levels, will be the greatest challenge and honor of my professional career. I am looking forward to this opportunity with high anticipation.”

Shrum has served as president of the OSU Center for Health Sciences since 2013, and she served as a member of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet for a year and a half. Once she is formally hired at the Board of Regents’ April 23 meeting, she will succeed current OSU President Burns Hargis, who will be retiring July 1 after 13 years in the job.

During his time at the helm, Hargis helped rejuvenate OSU’s finances, bringing in more than $2 billion in fundraising dollars. Enrollment also increased significantly during that time, and the campus saw additions such as the Spears School of Business, the McKnight Center for the Performing Arts, the ENDEAVOR Laboratory and the Greenwood Tennis Center.

The national search for Hargis’ replacement was conducted by a 38-person committee made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni, regents and community members. Shrum was selected by the board of regents from four finalists nominated by the committee. Some have criticized the committee for not holding public interviews of the finalists.

”[We] recognized from the start of this process the importance of conducting a thorough search to make sure we selected the most qualified candidate to lead OSU and the system into the future following the successful Burns Hargis presidency,” Board of Regents Chairman Rick Davis said. “I appreciate the deliberative approach taken by our regents, and we are grateful to regent Joe Hall, who impressively led the process over the past five months.”

Reaction from state leaders

Praise for Shrum was extensive Friday night and Saturday morning.

“A very well-deserved congratulations to Dr. Kayse Shrum on her selection as the next President for Oklahoma State University. She is without a doubt a great choice, and I applaud the A&M Board of Regents for their decision,” House Appropriations and Budget Vice Chairman Kyle Hilbert (R-Depew) wrote on Facebook. “As secretary of science and innovation, she helped save countless lives at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring that early on while other states were trying to scramble for tests, all Oklahomans who wanted a test were able to get one. Her leadership and creativity at OSU Center for Health Sciences have helped transform the institution into the next generation and she has arguably done more than any other over the past eight years to get more doctors into rural Oklahoma. If the past year has taught us anything it’s that no one knows what the future holds, but I know that my alma mater is in good hands with Dr. Shrum at the helm.”

University of Oklahoma President Joe Harroz also congratulated Shrum.

“I’m thrilled to congratulate Dr. Kayse Shrum on her selection as the next President of Oklahoma State University. The OSU Board of Regents made a fantastic choice,” Harroz said in a statement. “Dr. Shrum has led the OSU Center for Health Sciences with distinction and I’m confident that, under her leadership, OSU will continue to flourish as it has under President Hargis. I look forward to working together with Dr. Shrum to advance the cause of higher education in Oklahoma.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt distributed a statement Saturday afternoon.

“Dr. Kayse Shrum is a great leader, extremely smart and dedicated to serving others,” Stitt said. “She answered the call to serve in my cabinet and played a crucial role in guiding and protecting Oklahomans during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Shrum is a great listener, a wise decision maker and is a terrific choice as Oklahoma State University’s next president.”

Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell took to Twitter to comment on the decision.

Oklahoma’s chief operating officer, John Budd, also tweeted his support for his former colleague.

“Congratulations to Dr. Kayse Shrum, one of the brightest, kindest, and most capable people I’ve ever worked with,” Budd said. “A great leader and an even better human being. I’m so happy for her and for OSU.”

House Democrats like Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D-Norman) and Rep. Trish Ranson (D-Stillwater) also tweeted support.

Oklahoma City attorney Reggie Whitten called Shrum “inspirational.”

“Dr. Shrum has inspired hundreds and hundreds of young people to pursue their higher education and believe they can succeed,” Whitten said. “She will be even more inspirational in her new role as president of Oklahoma State.”

(Update: This article was updated at 10:50 a.m. Saturday, April 3, to include comment from Reggie Whitten.)