During the course of his career, Burns Hargis has served in the military, practiced law for 28 years, worked as a bank vice chairman and university president, and served in numerous high-profile community positions of leadership and influence. In 2022, just a year after retiring as the president of Oklahoma State University after serving for 13 years, he rejoined McAfee & Taft. In his current role, he serves as senior counsel to the firm, leveraging his prior career experience and leadership and collaborative skills to provide strategic advice and hands-on assistance in the areas of associate training and professional development, leadership training, recruiting, and client development.
Burns originally joined McAfee & Taft in 1994, 25 years after establishing himself as one of the state’s preeminent attorneys practicing in the field of commercial and bankruptcy law and litigation. Among his notable clients was the FDIC, which he represented in the Penn Square Bank closure as well as others during the 1980s. In 1997, he left the firm to become vice chairman of Bank of Oklahoma NA, a position he held until 2008, when he took office as the 18th president of Oklahoma State University. During his tenure, which was the third-longest in OSU history, the university experienced both record enrollment and record fundraising.
Active in the community, Burns’ long history of community service includes serving as founding board member and then chair of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, founding chair of the Oklahoma Creativity Project, chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and chairman of the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services. He also served as vice chairman of the Oklahoma State Election Board, as a board member of the Oklahoma Constitutional Revision Commission, and as a member of the Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
For 15 years, he served as a co-host and commentator on KFOR-TV’s weekly political news show, Flash Point.Download Bio (PDF)
Honors and Awards
- Inducted into the University of Oklahoma College of Law’s “Order of the Owl” Hall of Fame (2022)
- Honored with The Journal Record’s Legacy Award (2020)
- Honored with Leadership Oklahoma’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2016)
- Inducted into the U.S. Army ROTC National Hall of Fame (2016)
- Inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame (2009)
Professional Organizations and Memberships
- Oklahoma County Bar Association (Former President)
- Oklahoma Bar Association
- Oklahoma Bar Foundation (Former President)
- American Bar Foundation (Fellow)
Civic Involvement and Leadership
- Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (Board Member)
- Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce (Former Chairman)
- Oklahoma Creativity Project (Founding Chair)
- Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma (Founding Board Member and Chair for 7 years)
- United Way of Central Oklahoma (Former Chairman)