From the President
Todd Parnell '69
I received the call on my cell phone as I drove my daughter to a basketball game. "Congratulations," my friend said, "a Drury liberal arts education is more relevant than ever."
This was November 2008, and the world was roiling. Financial markets were frozen like an oil-less gearbox. The technical "experts," those professionally trained infallibles, had created a smoke-and-mirror society long on arrogance and greed and short on values and common sense. "It is not the liberally educated who have caused this mess, but they can certainly help get us out," my friend concluded. Thus, his take on the enhanced relevance of Drury.
Drury College was founded in the tradition of its New England forefathers Harvard, Yale, Williams, and Dartmouth. Drury's early curriculum included Latin, mathematics, physics, logic, English literature, political economy, moral philosophy, art criticism, history of civilization, and music. Since those early days, the perceived value of a liberal education has soared and fallen in repeatable cycles.
Throughout, Drury has stayed true to the model while adding professional tracks to the base foundation.
This issue of Drury magazine is about liberal arts education. I am not adequately credentialed to expound its virtues with the credibility of traditional educational leaders. Others will do so with vigor in subsequent pages. I can, however, speak to what a liberal arts education has meant to me in life.
With sincere trepidation prior to writing this piece, I pulled out a Todd Parnell transcript from four decades past. I skimmed the one-page document, grimaced, and dug deeper, class by class, professor by professor, and grade by grade.
This was at times a painful process! Too many B's and C's, not enough A's, and yes a single D — Computer Science — some intellectual deficiencies never change!
What struck me most was not the grades, but the professors. Their faces, their voices, their consistency of wisdom in the tumultuous 1960s flooded my memory. We learned religion from giants named Eikner and Smith, math from Graves, history from Berger and Asher, psychology from Agruso, science from Fryer, Bond and Roy.
From each of them we learned what it meant to be responsible and productive human beings. We developed a deeper understanding of ourselves, of the world around us, and of our shared responsibility for leaving it better than we found it.
In my chosen area of study, Mercer taught beyond the mechanics of cost accounting and Poe talked about morality in the world of finance. I'm confident neither of them graduated a single white-collar criminal.
My Drury liberal arts education prepared me for graduate studies and three distinct professional careers, all undreamed at the time. It encouraged me to engage in a world beyond degrees and dollars, to view things through the lens of right and wrong, to think entrepreneurially, and to wear my passion on my sleeve.
From this historic grounding has emerged a contemporary Drury brand of liberal arts education, keyed to expanded global opportunity and technological evolution. Drury will continue to prepare our students, as it did me, for a lifetime of learning, growth, and adaptation to worldly warp speed change. Drury will continue to do this one-on-one.
A Drury liberal arts education is the bridge from past to future, from high school to graduate degree or career, from campus community to lifelong connections, from tradition to relevance.
I remain convinced, like my friend that day in 2008, that a liberal arts education holds the greatest hope and promise for developing thinkers and doers who can restore humanity to its proper perch in our troubled world. I'm inspired by this notion and proud of Drury's ageless commitment thereto.
Todd Parnell '69