David and Sandra Harrison
From the moment the Harrison’s opened the door at their lovely home, it and was clear that these Drury alumni would tell a story that was full of fun and mutual support for each other. David and Sandra were high school sweethearts, and the delightful relationship they have fostered is evident when they look at each other. When David met Sandra at Central High School, he knew he couldn’t go too far away for college. Aside from Drury’s reputation for providing an excellent education, being right across the street from Central was a deciding factor.
Life at Drury
David set out to be an engineer, but quickly learned that he was better suited for the sciences. Under Dr. Lora Bond, he thrived in the classroom as a biology major. A year later, Sandra joined him at Drury and decided to major in Spanish and English. Both were exceptionally involved in student activities and in campus life. David pledged Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and was also Student Body President. Sandra was very active in Zeta Tau Alpha, was Panhellenic president, and worked for Dr. Oscar Fryer, a physics professor. The friendships and connections made at Drury sustain to this day, a phenomenon David did not experience in his graduate school coursework.
The Harrisons married the week David graduated, on May 23, 1959. That fall he began graduate school at Emory University in Atlanta, GA while Sandra remained in Springfield. The plan was for her to finish her degree at Drury before joining him, but not long after his arrival in Atlanta Sandra sent the news that a baby was on the way. With support from understanding professors and family, Sandra completed her degree in May of 1961.
After earning his Master’s degree in parasitology at Emory, David began working for Mead-Johnson in Evansville, IN and Sandra taught English and Spanish in the public school district. After three years, David decided that a career in science was perhaps not what he wanted to do. In his last semester at Drury, David was required to take a non-science course. He took a writing class, and did well in it, so he decided it was time to change the entire course of his career. Soon, the Harrisons were bound for Kansas City, Missouri. David took a position as children’s editor for Hallmark Cards. After their son Jeffrey was born, Sandra earned her Master of Education degree in Guidance and Counseling at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and worked for the Shawnee Mission School District as a guidance counselor.
Ten years later, Sandra and David, who was by then Hallmark’s Editorial Manager, found themselves returning to Springfield so that David could take over his family’s business, Glenstone Block Company. They weren’t sure they would stay but that was 1973 and they’re still here. Sandra retired after working for 23 years, first at Cherokee Middle School and later at Kickapoo High School as a guidance counselor. She has been heavily influential at local, state, and national levels and played vital roles in passing legislation that provided the first government program and regulations for children with learning disabilities. She was elected Missouri State President of The Association of Children with Learning Disabilities and served many years on the organization’s national board of directors. Her heart for education and the warmth with which she remembers her students is evident. Sandra’s experience with professors at Drury inspired her as she entered a career in education; always ensuring her students had the same access to information and support as she did at Drury.
The Harrisons Today
Since 1984 Sandra and David have co-owned Gamble’s Gifts in the Brentwood Center. The store is the largest Waterford Crystal dealer in the area and the only Lladro porcelain dealer in Southwest Missouri. After serving as president of Glenstone Block Company for 35 years, David sold the firm in 2008 to devote himself to writing full-time. Since his first picture book in 1969 he has published more than 90 books for children and teachers and become one of the nation’s best known children’s poets. When not speaking at national conferences or visiting schools, David now writes twelve hours daily, Monday through Friday and says that he finds inspiration for stories all around him.
The Harrisons encourage current students and other alumni to stay involved and connected to Drury however they can. Their son Jeffrey also graduated from Drury. Sandra remains a member of Drury Women’s Auxiliary and encourages others to join. David advises current students to “appreciate the way Drury teaches you how to think, and how Drury encourages you.” Sandra agrees, adding that “there is a lot of opportunity to be had at Drury. Embrace it and discover your potential. There are a lot of ways to become involved at a school like Drury.”
The Harrison family generously established a scholarship to the university, and encourages other alumni to give what they can to continue the great work of Drury. Additionally, David is the Poet Laureate at Drury, has won the Breech Award, and has also received an honorary doctorate from Drury as well as Missouri State University. Both have received Distinguished Alumni Awards from Drury.
Quick to praise the other’s accomplishments, the Harrisons are a joyful couple with a strong love for each other and a dedication to self-betterment. When they are not working, they enjoy traveling and spending time outdoors. “I planned a vacation one time,” says David, “and we went up the Amazon. Now Sandy won’t let me plan vacations anymore.”