Since its founding, Drury has maintained a commitment to equal opportunity. In 1875, Nathan Morrison, Drury’s first president, gave Drury’s first commencement address in which he affirmed the rights of all women to have the opportunity to receive education equal to that provided for men. This was a progressive thought at a time when many doubted the physical and intellectual stamina of women. In his 1873 book Sex in Education, Dr. Edward Clark, professor of medicine at Harvard University, promoted a common opinion regarding the capacity of women to acquire and benefit from higher education when he wrote "But it is not true that...(women can attend college) and retain uninjured health...Doubtless the evil of her education will infect her whole life."
Drury’s first President strongly disagreed. In his 1875 address to Drury’s first graduating class, Dr. Morrison said:
"It is settled that women are to be educated...Woman has demanded the keys of knowledge, and they have been surrendered to her. And that she is worthy to hold and use these keys no longer admits serious debate."
- Stone Chapel was constructed in the 1880s with a gift provided by Mrs. Valeria G. Stone, of Malden, Massachusetts. Valeria was a New England Congregationalist who funded institutions that offered educational opportunities for women and African- and Native-Americans. Indeed, Native Americans comprised almost 20% of Drury's first freshman class in September, 1873, and they were represented in the Drury student body in all but two of the following twenty years.
- Drury's historical commitment to diversity continues to this day and is evident in the school's growing international student population. The student body includes 179 international students representing over 50 different countries.
- In the year 2000, Drury arranged for the relocation and preservation of one of Springfield's more valuable historic sites. Washington Avenue Baptist Church has been a focal point of social and spiritual activities for the local African-American community for well over 100 years. The church has been restored on the Drury University campus and is now being used as a Diversity Center.