Women for Oklahoma State University reached new heights in virtually every way on April 14 at its eighth annual Symposium, highlighted by a keynote speech from former First Lady Laura Bush. The organization awarded nine scholarships totaling $37,800, which were both records. Stillwater native Malinda Berry Fischer was recognized as the Philanthropist of the Year at the event that drew a record 600 attendees.
Women for OSU is a diverse group of visionary women who share a passion for inspiring leadership and financial support to OSU. Women for OSU envisions a culture of giving and service that acknowledges the significant impact women have at OSU and inspires others to positively shape the future of the university through philanthropy and engagement.
The organization has sold every Symposium ticket each year, even as it has moved this marquee event to larger venues. This year, the Symposium was moved from its originally planned location of the Student Union Ballroom to Gallagher-Iba Arena due to increased demand.
Bush’s speech included stories from before, during and after living in the White House. She also spoke about her philanthropic efforts, which focus on education, health care and human rights.
Becky Steen, an OSU alumna and chair of Women for OSU, provided an update on the organization, including some impressive statistics. The group has awarded $144,350 in scholarships to 39 students during its eight-year history. It has hosted more than 2,500 women at its various events. The 48 current members of the organization’s Council have given more than $123.3 million to countless areas at OSU. The combined giving of everyone who attended the Symposium exceeds $1.38 billion to support OSU.
Gov. Mary Fallin also spoke, providing an update on the state and highlighting her pride in being a Cowgirl. Ann Hargis, OSU’s First Cowgirl, brought greetings from the university.
Roxanne Pollard, chair of the Women for OSU Awards and Recognition Team, introduced Philanthropist of the Year Malinda Berry Fischer as well as the nine scholarship recipients.
The master of ceremonies was alumna Jocelyn Lockwood, a reporter at NBC 5 in Dallas, Texas.
Malinda Berry Fischer is named for her grandmother, Malinda Blanche Wise Diggs, who became the second woman to graduate from then-Oklahoma A&M College in 1898. Fischer followed in her footsteps, earning a 1960 education degree from OSU. She also graduated from the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration in 1962.
“For all of us who attended OSU, we are encouraged not to be afraid to explore new places and new ideas, and to be ever inquisitive, to seize opportunities with confidence that you can do it, to push and prepare yourself to embrace challenges,” Fischer says. “As my father often told my brother and me, always do your homework. Sometimes it’s a very lonely journey.
“Receiving this honor did make me reflect on my life a little bit and like all of us, when we believe something strongly enough, we will find a way to do what we can and to give what we can.”
That mentality might explain a bit more of Fischer’s dedication to the communities where she’s lived and her evident passion for the arts in Stillwater, among many things.
She and her husband, Dick, made a home in Rochester, New York, from 1963 to 1995. She served on numerous boards including as chairman of the trust committee and on the executive committee for Chase Manhattan Bank/Rochester Division and chairman of the Rochester Area Community Foundation. She also worked as a consultant specializing in organizational management and development. In 1965, she was named one of the “Outstanding Young Women of America.” She returned to Stillwater in 1995 to head the family-owned Thomas N. Berry & Company. She recently retired from that position as well as president of Marietta Royalty Company.
She served on the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees from 1997-2007, including time as interim president and CEO (2004) and chairman of the board (2005). She also served on the Women for OSU Council from 2009-2011.
Fischer has given back to her alma mater in many other ways as well. She established the Thomas E. Berry Professorship in Water Research and Management and the Wise-Diggs-Berry Endowed Arts Faculty Award for teaching excellence. She is also a life member of the OSU Alumni Association. She is currently chair of the OSU Art Advisory Council and serves on the Performing Arts Advisory Board and the Doel Reed Center for the Arts committee.
Among her numerous other philanthropic efforts are serving on the boards of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and the Communities Foundation of Oklahoma. She was recognized as an OSU Leadership Legacy in 2002 and a Distinguished Alumna in 2006. In 2012, she was inducted in the OSU Alumni Hall of Fame.
The Fischers live in Stillwater. They have two sons — Richard (Angie) and Van (Darlene) — and three grandchildren — Bretton, Jackson and Campbell.
To watch a video of Fischer's remarks from the 2016 Symposium, visit OSUgiving.com/Women.