Although his life is one filled with personal and professional accomplishments, Ron Burton's resume has never been circulated among potential employers. Since he graduated from OU in 1969, he has worked for the University of Oklahoma Foundation, Inc. He's outlasted 13 university presidents -- temporary and permanent -- from Hollomon to Boren and the roller-coaster Oklahoma economy.

By all accounts, it's been a good ride. He'll leave the foundation's presidency Oct. 12. Its resources grew exponentially on his watch. When he was named director in 1978, they counted $17.5 million in assets. Today, the corpus of the 64-year-old Foundation tops $864 million.

"I was hoping that it would happen on my watch but it'll hit a billion dollars soon," he said. He remembers the foundation's first $1 million in 1969. The first official gift was $160 and came in 1944. Donors wanted a separate entity to keep from tempting lawmakers who might see the foundation's gifts as a ready source of state funds.

Some of those "gifts" weren't accepted over the years. Besides cash, they've been offered sewer plants, drive-in theaters, apartment complexes and some time-shares in Florida.

"You have to make sure you've getting a gift and not a liability," he said.

Many of those gifts have come in the last 13 years during President David L. Boren's tenure. Those have been among the best of times for fundraising and development professionals. Burton was a law school classmate of Molly Shi Boren, the university's First Lady.

"The campus has never looked better," he said. "They truly do love Oklahoma."

Boren applauded Burton's integrity and said university donors have always known that their gifts would be used appropriately and for the purpose for which they were given.  This trust built by Ron Burton has been a major factor in the growth of the OU endowment.”

 Burton succeeded his mentor, the late Boyd Gunning, as director. The relationships formed with donors when putting together win-win deals were most important to them.

Burton is known for forming complicated and imaginative public-private partnerships that benefit donors and the university. The fiduciary responsibility isn't taken lightly.

"It's critical that you make sure you do what you said you'd do. I've always said that the only thing this university has to sell is its integrity," Burton said. "I'm proud of what we've done. I think we've done what we've said we would."

He and his wife of 40 years, Jetta, will continue to travel internationally and within the U.S. for Rotary International. Jetta, a retired teacher, is also an active Rotarian. He served as a trustee and now a member of the Rotary Foundation board. Rotary, Burton said, opens doors to communication across cultures.

"I think it teaches you that you need to be tolerant of other people. Basic human wants and needs are the same no matter where you are in the world."

Burton holds accounting and law degrees from OU but has no plans to embark on a new career soon.

"I'll miss the people. I think I'll miss some of the activities of putting deals together,"he said.

The reaction across the campus has been gratifying to him. Some ask what they will do without him, others want to know what he plans to do.

"I've never done this before. I'll do something but I'm not going to make a rush decision."

Andy Rieger 366-3543 editor@normantranscript.com

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