T. Boone Pickens felt a true responsibility to enhance the world and enrich the lives of others. He was a legendary energy executive, a visionary, and extraordinary agent for change who created thousands of jobs and made billions of dollars for himself and others during his impressive career. In 2017, Forbes magazine named Mr. Pickens one of the 10 “Greatest Living Business Minds” in its 100th anniversary issue.
Mr. Pickens committed to leaving 90 percent of his wealth to philanthropy and gave away more than $1 billion during his career, but his philanthropic impact reached almost $2 billion through innovative matching initiatives. The breadth of his philanthropy includes medical research, athletic, and academic projects. He loved America, encouraged others to give, and enjoyed seeing the impact of his generosity.
As a longtime friend of Southwestern Medical Foundation, Mr. Pickens served on the Board of Trustees and made substantial financial contributions to bring the gift of better health to the community and the world beyond. In 2006, he started the T. Boone Pickens Foundation and made a transformational $50 million gift to Southwestern Medical Foundation supporting UT Southwestern Medical Center. The gift came with a unique agreement to grow a special investment fund to $500 million within 25 years from earnings on the principal or from new donations received from other organizations and individuals.
Mr. Pickens vision was to help make UT Southwestern one of the finest research hospitals in the world. He knew the institution’s needs would change and evolve over time and had complete trust in its leadership.
“Boone was passionate about many things. Advancing America’s energy security. Advocating shareholder rights. Political engagement. And, certainly, active and targeted philanthropy. Boone sincerely enjoyed helping people through his philanthropy and believed UT Southwestern through medical research and development would be a great place to advance his goals.”
Marti Carlin, Director of Community Affairs for the T. Boone Pickens Foundation
During 2019, Southwestern Medical Foundation and UT Southwestern reached the challenge set by the T. Boone Pickens Foundation to grow the Pickens Fund to $500 million. This extraordinary challenge makes a new endowment of $500 million available in perpetuity in support of UT Southwestern’s highest priorities.
“On September 11, an already somber day in the life of our country, T. Boone Pickens passed away at the age of 91. While we were unaware of his passing that morning, the Foundation Executive Committee was meeting to approve the Foundation’s match and formation of the new T. Boone Pickens Endowment. On reflection, I know that this would have pleased Boone enormously. We met the challenge as he bravely met each of his challenges.”
Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation
Following His Dreams
Mr. Pickens’ remarkable life was shaped by his humble upbringing in Holdenville, Oklahoma, during the Great Depression. He was born May 22, 1928, to Thomas Boone Pickens, an oil and mineral landman (rights leaser), and Grace Molonson Pickens, who ran the local Office of Price Administration, rationing gas and other goods in three counties during World War II.
It was through the example of his parents and grandmother that Mr. Pickens learned about frugality and the privilege that is our work. His mother was loving and charitable and displayed a red cross in the family’s living room window to express her financial support for the American Red Cross. His grandmother lived next door in a house that was well known to homeless drifters as a welcome place to work for food and support.
He attended Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) where he studied geology, worked tirelessly, and dreamed big. While a young man starting out in his career, he began experiencing fatigue, low-grade fevers, and pain. His doctor was unable to determine the cause of his symptoms, so he saw a specialist at Southwestern Medical School and received a diagnosis that required removal of his spleen. This experience was life-changing and gave him a new perspective on the importance of good health.
“Boone was one of the healthiest individuals I have ever been around, and it began at UT Southwestern. It was partly because he took very good care of himself. He made daily exercise a key aspect of his life.”
Jay Rosser, who was hired in 1990 as Mr. Pickens’ Vice President of Public Affairs at BP Capital and Chief of Staff
It was his early experience at Southwestern Medical School that inspired Mr. Pickens to support Southwestern Medical Foundation. He was confident that the faculty and leadership of UT Southwestern would be responsible stewards of his investments and served on the Southwestern Medical Foundation Board of Trustees until his death.
“Boone wanted to engage in his giving during his lifetime, fully participate in its distribution, and see the good that was being done. It was important for him to stay in touch and meet with senior leaders to be briefed on the projects. He wanted to know ‘How are they utilizing the money? Are they doing what they said they were going to do? What are they doing that will excite me?’” said Mr. Rosser.
Mr. Pickens had an amazing ability to communicate complex ideas in a way that anyone could understand. He was inspired by and accessible to young people and gave them abundant opportunities to grow and learn. He believed in entrepreneurship and was always open to change, embracing social media in his final years. His team used his voice to build an impressive LinkedIn following of 1.5 million people.
Today, Mr. Rosser is one of the four executors of Mr. Pickens’ estate and a board member of the T. Boone Pickens Foundation. He is grateful to have walked alongside Mr. Pickens for more than 30 years.
“It was an incredible opportunity to work for someone who had so many passions – political passions, energy sector passions, and philanthropic passions. We probably spent thousands of hours on an airplane together, just talking. He taught me so much and gave me wisdom and confidence. He was like a second father to me.”
Remembering T. Boone Pickens
T. Boone Pickens loved Oklahoma and Texas and considered them both to be home. His philanthropy has been particularly generous in its support of academics and athletics at his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, where leaders are currently in the planning stages of a museum that will honor the various aspects of his life.
“Mr. Pickens shaped our community through his business acumen, leadership, and most importantly, his generosity. His dedication to the well-being of others and his unique perspective on endowment will continue to sustain progress at UT Southwestern for decades. Throughout his life, Mr. Pickens had a strong devotion to philanthropy, and that commitment lives on today through the many gifts he left behind.”
James R. Huffines, Chairman of the Board at Southwestern Medical Foundation
The T. Boone Pickens Biomedical Building is a 14-story medical research and education facility that stands on the UT Southwestern campus in Dallas and was named in recognition of his tremendous generosity. He has left a significant legacy in the world, which will be remembered through those who knew him, the lives he touched, and the work and progress his endowed giving will support forevermore.