Special Olympics Oklahoma honors OSU President Shrum with

Friday, September 15, 2023

Media Contact:
Sydney Trainor | Communications Specialist | 405-744-9782 | sydney.trainor@okstate.edu

Special Olympics Oklahoma (SOOK) honored Oklahoma State University President Kayse
Shrum as the 2023 recipient of the Barry Switzer Award of Excellence Thursday during
the eighth annual Gold Medal Gala at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa. 

OSU President Kayse Shrum (second from left) was presented the Barry Switzer Award of Excellence by Kearsty McCoy, Chris Nikic and Bart Conner.
OSU President Kayse Shrum (second from left) was presented the Barry Switzer Award
of Excellence by Kearsty McCoy, Chris Nikic and Bart Conner.

The gala is Oklahoma’s premier event to celebrate people with intellectual disabilities
and the Special Olympics movement in Oklahoma.

Bart Conner, a retired Olympic gymnast and 2022 SOOK recipient of the Barry Switzer
Award of Excellence, Kearsty McCoy, a SOOK athlete, and ESPY-winning Ironman contestant
Chris Nikic presented the award to Dr. Shrum.
Switzer could not attend due to illness. 

As a former director on the Special Olympics Board, Conner has seen the transformative
power of the organization around the globe.

“I think about what’s happening here in Oklahoma, and I look at the magic that happens
right here, and a lot of it has to do with the goodness that happens at OSU,” Conner
said. “Dr. Shrum, we’re obviously thrilled to honor you tonight because that’s the
beauty of Special Olympics.”

As president of the OSU system, Shrum is an avid supporter of SOOK through the Chilly Cowboy, an event started in 2022 that benefits the organization. OSU athletes, coaches and administrators take a dip in cold water every year for
the fundraiser, which was started by former OSU softball player
Chelsea (Alexander) Fitzgerald. She approached Shrums with the idea of raising money
for SOOK through a fundraiser, and Chilly Cowboy has raised over $80,000 in the last
two years.

Chilly Cowboy also supports the new OSU Unified program. The first program of its kind the program brings Special Olympic athletes, faculty, staff and students together
to compete in intramural sports all throughout the year.

OSU has a long history of working with SOOK. The university and the City of Stillwater
have hosted the annual summer games since 1985 — the largest amateur sporting event
in Oklahoma with nearly 4,000 participants in 2023.

“I believe I’m receiving this on behalf of a community of wonderful people at Oklahoma
State University. I’m a huge believer in the mission of Special Olympics Oklahoma,”
Shrum said. “I love that Special Olympics allows individuals with intellectual disabilities
to have a place through sports to find their abilities and grow from them.”

Shrum was a pitcher for Connors State College and credits her participation in athletics
with leading her to where she is today, growing her confidence and making her comfortable
with facing challenges.

OSU’s land-grant mission is to graduate servant-leaders who humbly give of themselves
to better their communities, improve society and steward the land and its people.
As laid out in the systemwide
strategy, OSU is committed to enriching the Cowboy culture by cultivating individuals who
compete with integrity and excellence.

“At the very heart of our university is the Cowboy Code and that’s really central
to the values and the culture at OSU,” Shrum said. “There’s one tenet that I would
love to share with you. It’s part of the Cowboy Code and that is ‘Being a Cowboy isn’t
in our clothes, it’s in our character.’ And part of the character of being a Cowboy
is caring about others around you.

“When we say that we graduate servant-leaders, we mean it. We model that behavior
through our actions and through the opportunities that we provide our students to
engage in service. So, when a student brings an opportunity to us, we are so excited
to support them.”

OSU is also the home to the Opportunity Orange Scholars program, which allows individuals with intellectual disabilities to live on campus
and pursue a two-year, non-degree academic certificate in career and community studies.

“I would be remiss if I stood up here and acknowledged many people without saying
thank you to student-athletes themselves,” Shrum said. “We are so grateful that you
are a part of our community. You bring your courage, your joy and your enthusiasm,
which brings a smile to our faces. So, thank you so much for being a part of Oklahoma
State University.” 

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