Mr. President & First Lady

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to 2007?
Todd:   Do it again!


Betty:     Keep a journal because you don’t want to miss a minute.
Todd:   Yes, it does go fast.
What are your fondest memories?

Fond is the wrong word for this memory. Inspiring is better.  A tragedy that inspired hope was being with Marcia Cooper in her hospital room just before she passed away.  I was moved by her passion for education and her unwavering commitment to succeed.  Also by the university’s humane and responsive ability to react quickly and do the right thing. We took commencement to Marcia so she could graduate in front of her family. I will never forget that. We can do things at Drury that other places may not think of.

Nor will I ever forget the reception given to us when we were introduced to faculty in April 2007. It was warm, welcoming, emotional, and it captured the importance of the moment.

Betty:     When they all stood up, I have never felt so welcome or that the moment was so right.

Yes, it was incredibly inspiring.

Another was when I visited my dad in the nursing home immediately after having been elected to serve as Drury’s 16th president. He looked up with a weak smile and softly said, “That’s a joy with a whole lot of problems.” The next morning, he asked the nurse to bring him his suit and tie, which he hadn’t worn for months. When asked why, he responded, “I need to go help Todd.” He and my mother loved Drury.

 What have you enjoyed the most about serving as president and first lady at Drury?
Todd:    Interactions with students. It is energizing and uplifting.

And we learn from them. If you listen, they’ll talk to you, and they have important things to say.

In the beginning, I started going over to campus when I had time off from work so I could gain a sense of what Drury was like now because of course it had changed from when I was a student here. I started visiting departments and talking with faculty and students. I remember one wonderful conversation I had at Finley while having lunch with several math professors. I had been terrified of that subject as a student and now here I was having this meaningful dialogue. I always walked away feeling energized and challenged.

Being on campus gives you the opportunity for spontaneous interactions with students, staff, faculty and alums. It has been so rewarding to have the opportunity to work with Todd and be able to contribute in my own way to the giving spirit of Drury.

I have leaned from everyone I've met at Drury, from the grounds crew to the Education department. The more people I’ve met, I’ve felt the significance of all their roles. The departments are all different but the goal is the same…helping students. Assisting them in that trek to adulthood in a healthy, safe way.

There is a shared, collective concern among the Drury community. To minimize adversity, so students can be successful, satisfied and fulfilled. Truly, life memories for which I am so grateful.


I also enjoyed that it was not like going to work. It was like going to school. There is a feeling of community among all constituencies, grounded in affection for Drury.

Everyone knows I love Move-In Day! It is Drury at her best: warm, welcoming, embracing. And to be moved into a new home in 15 minutes is mind boggling to most. It’s an exhilarating day.

Our students want to be called by name and we try to do that every day. Our faculty and staff live up to that. It’s a sign of respect.

Betty:    I love that so many students call out to Todd when he’s walking on campus.
What was the funniest moment during your tenure as president and first lady?
Todd:     Canoe, inauguration and the fountain! Tom Parker threw a life jacket over my head. We all waded out into the fountain to enter a canoe. The whole family. I was in my regalia. The pictures are priceless.
The most difficult moment?
Todd:    Over spring break several years ago when we got the call that a student had died. Alex Parker. It was a huge loss. It was a profound loss. Everyone is so special. It’s the greatest fear you have. Through it all, we got to know the faculty, the sororities and fraternities better, and together we worked through it.
Betty:   It was devastating. Alex will be in our hearts forever.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with your successor?
Todd:    Be prepared to fall in love with Drury. She’ll sweep you off your feet.
Betty:   Get engaged as much as possible. There’s so much and it’s really worth it.
If universities ran by popular vote, what would your campaign slogan have been?
Todd:   Popularity has nothing to do with anything!
Final words?

We can’t express how grateful we are for the Drury community’s support. We have been through a lot of major challenges together. While we may debate methodology, shared core beliefs have been consistent throughout our time here.

Personal access. That is a core Drury value. At Drury, students are educated, honored and respected on an individual basis, which more often than not translates to personal growth that prepares them for a lifetime of service. This is Drury’s gift to the world.

Betty:    Jump in with both feet because before you know it, it will be time to jump out.


Web Extras

Meet Marley the Flying Dog
Marley Takes Flight: The Parnells' Airborne German Shepard

Marley's Furry Superhero Friends
Meet Other Four-Legged Caped Heroes from Drury