The First Word: Gale Boutwell '69

Registrar and Assistant Dean for Records & Research
2010 Recipient of Drury's Distinguished Staff Award

To write about the "new face of liberal arts" implies that there is an "old face" to compare. As a member of the class of 1969 who still commutes to campus every day, and also the person who has attended more Drury graduations than anyone else alive (it's true!), I am possibly qualified to draw such a comparison. My perspective is that for as much as Drury's tradition and history are revered, there is certainly a new history being made. To stay in touch with Drury is to stay in touch with the vibrancy of this "traditional" liberal arts institution.

It seems that whenever my colleagues and I are mentioned in the magazine, what quickly follows is an outpouring of messages from graduates and friends of the university. Like gifts sent home, bits of news and information begin to arrive from Drury people who are doing good things in medicine, education, entrepreneurship, government, artistic expression and philanthropy.

Those messages result in the best kind of celebration for the faculty, staff and administration who remain here, happily balanced somewhere between connections to our graduates and relationships with current students.

On May 14, 2011, the newest class of liberal arts graduates will follow the faculty into the O'Reilly Family Event Center for the very first time. I can already envision how they will look as they enter the new arena. Even though they will be scanning the audience for the faces of family and friends, their movements will be purposeful and assured. This is the satisfaction and confidence of achievement. The education of these students may have been served by all manner of current pedagogy and delivery. Study abroad, engaged learning, experiential learning, online and technical support — these are the new ways in which faculty impart time-tested skills that set liberal arts graduates apart. Five minutes or 50 years after graduation, Drury's liberal arts students have in common the skills, pathways and desires that will allow them to continue to learn.

Tweeting and texting at global hearths from St. Louis to San Diego, Sparta to Singapore, Drury graduates are rising, evaluating, changing, laughing, standing up, making a difference — regardless of luck, turns of events or changes in relationships.

As I finish writing, there is a student at my door. She's wearing a rather peculiar hat and green nail polish. She says she has a 29 ACT and that she might get a scholarship. She thinks I know her mother.

Here is the new face of liberal arts. She's just beautiful.