Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Distinguished Alumni

Bob Magness

Bob & Betsy Magness - 1986

Bob and Betsy Magness first got involved in the cable industry in the small town of Memphis, Texas.  Today, their company, Tele-Communications, Inc., is the largest operator of cable systems in the United States.  Tele-Communications and its affiliates serve 3.9 million customers in 42 states through cable television.  The 450 communities served by TCI range from small rural areas to large metropolitan districts. 

Betsy (Preston) Magness was born in Canute, Oklahoma, and graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1946 with a degree in Business and Home Economics.  Bob was born in Clinton, Oklahoma.  Following a tour of duty in the service, he attended Southwestern and received his Business Administration degree in 1949.  Bob and Betsy were married in 1949. 

Betsy Magness

Their marriage was the start of one of the greatest husband and wife partnerships in the United States.  Bob and Betsy worked side-by-side in all of their successful business ventures.  Following graduation from Southwestern, they moved to Elk City, Oklahoma, where Bob worked for three years as a cotton seed buyer and Betsy worked for Armour and Company.  When they closed the cottonseed mill at Elk City, Bob was transferred to Memphis, Texas.  At that time, they cottonseed business was heading into a slump and they thought it was wise to get into something else.  They came upon the idea of bringing television programming fro Lubbock and Amarillo via cable to the small town of Memphis.  The idea, first looked upon with skepticism, gained wide acceptance among their neighbors in Memphis once they saw the product.  And, the system flourished. 

They then saw the potential for similar operations in the wide-open ranch country of Montana, and Bob and Betsy packed up and moved to Bozeman.  In 1962, they called together the leading cable operators in the West and persuaded Standard Corporation of Ogden, Utah; Kearns Corporation of Salt Lake City; and Cooper Broadcasting Company of Butte, Montana, to join forces with them.  Thus the nucleus of Tele-Communications, Incorporated was formed. 

On September 23, 1985, Betsy died of a heart attack in Frankfurt, Germany while attending an international Arabian horse sale in Poland with her husband and one of her sons. 

Recently more than 500 cable industry leaders filled the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York to honor Bob and Betsy Magness.  Because of the unexpected death of Betsy, the gala black-tie $325 per person dinner paid a special tribute to Betsy calling her “this great lady who gave so much to us, to our industry and to her community.”  Bob remains successful with his championship Arabian horse farm, owning some of the finest mares and stallions in the world.  Poland and Russia, and he owns one of the finest stallions, Gondolier, in the nation.  He also raises championship Limousin cattle on his ranches in Montana, Colorado, and Oklahoma.  Bob and Betsy reared two sons, Kim and Geary, who are active in the family business operations.  Bob passed away November 15, 1996.