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Former Oklahoma State University president, state lawmaker Jim Halligan dies at 86

Jim Halligan
Oklahoma Senate
Jim Halligan

Former Oklahoma State University President and GOP state Senator Jim Halligan died Tuesday in Stillwater at the age of 86.

Halligan was president at OSU from 1994 through 2002 and later served in the state senate from 2008 through 2016.

Current OSU President Kayse Shrum said she mourned his loss in a statement.

“He faced and overcame many challenges as president of our beloved university, reversing a trend of declining enrollment and resetting our future on a more positive track,” she wrote. “Jim and his wife, Ann, led with compassion and strength.”

Halligan led the university at the time of a 2001 plane crash that claimed the lives of 10 Cowboy men’s basketball team staffers, players and a flight crew.

He is credited with saying “we will remember” about the men who died immediately following the crash. Those words are etched on their campus memorial in Stillwater.

"There are many things in life which I don't understand, but I put this at the top of the list,” Halligan toldThe Oklahoman about the plane crash in 2006. "I just have to trust in God that he has a plan that's much greater than any that I can imagine and that he felt it was appropriate for this event to occur. That's the only way that I can rationally embrace it and somehow, somehow, try to accept it, which I think will never be true.”

As university president, Halligan oversaw $200 million in construction projects on campus for research and student facilities and a $260 million renovation project of Gallagher-Iba Arena.

His accomplishments reached beyond OSU’s campus, including during his eight years in the state senate.

One of his biggest legislative feats was as the architect of the 2015 law that bars tobacco use at schools and on college campuses.

“Jim was both a mentor and trusted friend, and my thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ann, their children, and grandchildren as we mourn his passing and give thanks for a well-lived life of service,” his successor Sen. Tom Dugger, R-Stillwater, said in a statement about his passing.

Halligan lived in Stillwater after retiring from Oklahoma State with his wife Ann, who survives him.

“We just like OSU,” he said in a university oral history recorded in 2021. “We really do. It’s been my pleasure to be affiliated with it in various ways.”

Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
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