NORMAN, Okla. -- The relationship between OU President James Gallogly and his predecessor, David Boren, has crumbled amid threats and feuding over the financial status of the university and other issues, according to multiple sources within the university community.
Before he took office, Gallogly was critical of the university's financial status in a June 19 Board of Regents meeting. Boren countered with a letter on June 20 to The Norman Transcript, defending OU's finances and stating a significant part of the university's debt was bonded with scheduled payments.
Following the publication of that letter on June 20, Gallogly told a senior OU administrator to deliver a message to Boren: “You tell him that I am the meanest son of a bitch he has ever seen, and if he ever crosses me again, I will destroy him.”
The statement was confirmed by multiple sources who spoke to the Transcript on a condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from Gallogly.
Erin Yarbrough, OU interim vice president of public affairs, responded to reports of the threat on Gallogly’s behalf in a statement saying, “the situation described and message to President Boren is inaccurate.”
Speaking to The Transcript at the OU Board of Regents meeting shortly after the story on the matter broke Tuesday, Gallogly denied telling Boren to never cross him again, and that if he did, he would destroy him.
“I have never threatened David Boren,” Gallogly said. “That is false.”
But a source with knowledge of the friction between the current and former president said: “Mr. Gallogly has been true to his word. He has been on a continual quest to persecute David Boren.”
Boren, a former Democratic governor and U.S. senator, served as OU president for more than 23 years before retiring in June. He responded through his attorney, Bob Burke.
“I never want to get involved in attacking anyone personally, because I have always tried to get along with everyone in my 54 years of public service. It’s my goal to make the transition to the new president as seamless as possible. That’s what I have done and that’s what I will continue to do.
"I just don't want to get involved in name calling and sometimes people say things that they wish could be taken back."
Boren and Gallogly have known each other for decades. Boren served on the board of Phillips Petroleum beginning in 1994, and then for three years after the company's merger with Conoco. Gallogly began working for Phillips in the 1980s, and held executive positions at Phillips Petroleum, Chevron Phillips and ConocoPhillips. In 2007, when Gallogly was executive vice president of refining, marketing and transportation for ConocoPhillips, the company announced a $6 million donation to OU.
Gallogly was also a significant donor to OU during Boren's tenure, highlighted by a $30 million gift in 2015 in conjunction with the Stephenson family that provided funding for Gallogly Hall, which was intended to house the Gallogly College of Engineering's new biomedical engineering department.
It is unclear when the relationship between Gallogly and Boren began to sour, but Gallogly's response to Boren's June 20 letter was certainly a turning point, according to multiple sources.
In addition to Gallogly's warning to Boren, Gallogly told then OU vice president of public affairs Rowdy Gilbert not to respond to a press inquiry regarding the university's finances without his permission or permission from OU Board of Regents Chairman Clayton Bennett, according to a report by the OU Daily. Gallogly was not yet president of OU.
“I want to be clear to you that you are not to send anything to the press on any financial metrics etc. without my express permission or that of Clay Bennett’s,” Gallogly wrote. “That means you are not to follow President Boren’s request to do so without permission from Mr. Bennett as well.”
Yarbrough said Boren's letter to the Transcript, which was published by multiple Oklahoma media outlets, was inaccurate.
“The information from President Boren on financials was incomplete and email correspondence reported in the OU Daily clearly indicated that President Gallogly wanted complete information provided to the press, not just partial financial information on debt,” she said. “That information was provided the next day by phone to the Tulsa World by President Gallogly.”
Faculty and staff continue to be confused by Gallogly's actions, particularly as they relate to Boren, according to multiple sources. One faculty member, who spoke on a condition of anonymity due to their job at OU, said the OU community expected Gallogly to make cuts, but not minimize his predecessor's legacy.
“We knew that there were financial issues; we knew that we were going to get some kind of CEO-type,” the faculty member said. “What we did not know was how extremely negative this president would be, that he would kind of viciously go after the former president. Something has happened between them.”
According to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, Gallogly's attitude toward Boren has become increasingly antagonistic since June. Gallogly instructed the Stephenson Cancer Center not to install a plaque memorializing Boren's brother-in-law, Dr. Augustin Henry Shi V, who died in 2016 from cancer. Shi was treated at the Stephenson Cancer Center, and Boren, along with his wife Molly Shi, donated $25,000 to the center with the understanding the plaque would be installed in the center's lobby.
The OU Foundation then returned the $25,000 gift to the Borens per their request, according to multiple sources. OU Foundation President and CEO Guy Patton declined to comment on specific donations, but noted the decision to install a plaque or memorial on university property lies solely with the university's administration.
However, Yarbrough said the Borens' gift needed approval from the board of regents, that Boren asked that the request be “vacated and the gift was returned.”
Boren, a political powerhouse in Oklahoma for decades, had long been criticized for swelling the ranks of OU's vice presidents with hand-picked friends.
Upon taking over as president, Gallogly began slashing administrative positions. Ten high-level administrators who worked under Boren retired, resigned or were laid off since July 1. On his first day in office he laid off the chief financial officer and five other top executives at the university.
Attorney Burke said he supports Gallogly but at least three of the fired top executives were doing their jobs well and should not have been terminated.
“It seems they were let go because they were Boren’s people; because they were certainly very capable,” said Burke. “I feel like that’s a great loss for the university.”
Yarbrough said administrators were not fired because of their connection to Boren.
“The termination of various administrators was based on the financial condition of the university when President Gallogly took office and a variety of other factors,” she said. “The terminations had nothing to do with President Boren. Decisions such as this require regents approval, which was obtained in advance.”
Boren currently has an office at OU and teaches a political science class under a contract with the Board of Regents. His salary was not listed in the most recent state employee payroll records released by the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services.