Drury began in 1873. It was organized by Congregational home missionaries who felt the need for an academically strong liberal arts college in the area. Patterned after the Congregationalist liberal-arts colleges of the North, such as Oberlin, Carleton, Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard, the college would offer an environment of strong academic discourse and intellectual achievement. After much debate, Springfield was chosen over Neosho, Mo., as the college's location. Four men then joined to organize and endow what they named Springfield College: James Harwood and Charles Harwood of Springfield, The Rev. Nathan Morrison of Olivet, Mich., and Samuel Drury of Otsego, Mich. Drury's gift of $25,000 was the largest, and the college was renamed for his recently deceased son. Morrison was chosen as the first president; he rang the bell to begin classes on Sept. 25, 1873.
The early curriculum emphasized educational, religious and musical strengths. Students came to the new college from a wide area, including the Indian Territories of Oklahoma. In 1875, Drury celebrated its first graduating class which was comprised of five students, all of whom were women.
Drury started small, in a single building. When classes began in 1873, the campus occupied less than 1½ acres. Twenty-five years later the 40-acre campus included Stone Chapel, the President's House and three academic buildings. Today, there is an 90-acre campus, including the original site, but with facilities not envisioned by the founders.
Drury College became Drury University on Jan. 1, 2000, reflecting its growing role in higher education. In addition to the academic programs of the early years, Drury students today study in the Breech School of Business Administration, the Hammons School of Architecture, School of Education and Child Development and the departments of mathematics and sciences, social sciences, exercise and sport science, to name a few. The list of majors and minors Drury offers has grown too and now includes high tech ones such as computer science and e-commerce.
Drury was one of the first universities in the state to offer continuing education and evening classes to meet the needs of non-traditional students. Today the College of Continuing Professional Studies serves nearly three thousand students, in Springfield and at locations throughout Missouri.
Unchanged is the commitment to providing a quality academic experience; preparing students for working and living in today's world; learning the value of service to their communities, and experiencing diversity.
The two cannons that sit proudly in front of Pearsons and Burnham Halls are field pieces from the Civil War. The legend says that in 1885 or 1886, the governor of Missouri distributed several similar cannons to various counties for patriotic display. The two cannons sent to Greene County moved around from place to place for several years before Drury was chosen as a neutral location.
Soon after the cannons were moved to the college campus, one disappeared. For the years afterward, the remaining cannon stayed in its place in front of Pearsons Hall, occasionally used in parades and fired at patriotic celebrations. It also occasionally had a way of going off right on the campus. When boys from Springfield High School borrowed the cannon for a celebration in 1905, and Drury's business manager said they were free to keep it, Drury students took it upon themselves to reclaim it and return it to its normal place. It was then that it was decided to mount the cannon on a solid stone pedestal.
In 1913, the cannon that had been lost for about 20 years turned up. The employees of the Frisco shops where it was found had been occasionally using the piece for there own patriotic celebrations. A negotiation between Drury students and the Frisco supply keeper resulted in the cannon's return to its spot in front of Burnham Hall, where it was mounted like the first. The two still remain on display, seemingly guarding Drury's two halls as they sit atop their stone pedestals.