The giving was never about ego for T. Boone Pickens.
He donated millions upon millions to his beloved Oklahoma State not as a personal statement but as an investment in a winning football program. He remembered back in 2015 what drove him to eventually give $652 million to his alma mater between academics and athletics.
"We are going to be competitive," the legendary oilman said, thinking back to his first big gift in 2003. "I'm tired of leaving the stadium looking down at my shoes. I don't want to come up to Stillwater and we lose. We used to lose homecoming."
Pickens died Wednesday at 91 at his Dallas home, having lived to see a resurgence at Oklahoma State. A renovated stadium bears his name.
As an athletic donor, maybe only Nike co-founder Phil Knight at Oregon has exceeded Pickens for impact on a single school.
He never quite got that football national championship although the Cowboys made a major run in 2011, finishing third in the BCS thanks to a controversial missed field goal at Iowa State. The Cowboys have averaged more than nine wins a season this decade.
"We could never thank him enough for all that he did for our university," Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said in a statement. "He gave us everything he had and all that he asked in return was that we play by the rules and dream big."
Pickens was nothing if not passionate and opinionated about Oklahoma State. If he was busy donating millions, yes, he wanted results. At the same time, he emphasized that he was never a micro-manager, assessing assistant coaches and critiquing play calls.
Demanding but not combative, Pickens once noted proudly that he was still on speaking terms with all four of his ex-wives at the time.
But he did expect the same devotion to Oklahoma State that he showed.
In 2007, during a plane flight to the Oklahoma State-Georgia game, he pulled no punches about former OSU football coach Les Miles.
Pickens said he offered to pay for new practice fields in 2004 but Miles never responded if he wanted grass or turf. Pickens took that as a sign. So did a lopsided Alamo Bowl loss to Ohio State, where Pickens left at halftime.
"I was worried LSU might not be interested in him after that," Pickens said. "But thank God they offered him the job."
He and Miles renewed their friendship over the last few years, another side of Pickens.
Over the years, Pickens feuded, fussed and made up more than once with current Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.
Pickens told the The Dallas Morning News in April 2015 that he had been upset by Gundy's flirtations with jobs at schools like Arkansas and Tennessee. Pickens wanted him to devote to Oklahoma State.
"There's no question we kind of drifted apart," Pickens said. "When we visited, we both agreed that we loved the university. We might not be identified as weekend fishing buddies together but the most important thing is Oklahoma State and we both understand that.
"Mike Gundy is a winner."
A couple days later, he showed up at Oklahoma State's spring practice to embrace Gundy.
"Mr. Pickens is a big part of our success and we're all thankful for the lasting impact he's had on Oklahoma State," Gundy tweeted Wednesday.
"It would have been difficult for us to climb as high as we have without him. He'll be missed, but his legacy here will live on for a long time to come."
Pickens wasn't just a college sports fan. He loved hunting and fishing on his palatial ranch. A longtime member of the Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters, he had a framed scorecard in his office from the round where he eagled No. 11 – next to all those 1980s magazine covers.
Pickens' impact on Oklahoma State was noticed far outside of Stillwater.
Texas A&M's 12th Man Magazine once listed the biggest mistakes in Aggie history. One of them: cutting Pickens from his $25 a month basketball scholarship in in 1947.
Oklahoma State wound up as the beneficiary.