D.K. Hirner often rolls onto the Drury campus in a black SUV. In the back you're as likely to find hiking boots or a mountain bike as a briefcase or laptop. Not what you'd expect of a new Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations at Drury? Hang on. The ride is just beginning.
Q. What attracted you to Drury and Southwest Missouri?
A. It was the opportunity to work in higher education. I really believe in higher education and the potential it has for a person to be able to grow and change their own life. I come from a blue-collar family background and no one had ever gone to college. But people want things to be better for their kids and so from a very young age, I was encouraged to go to college. A college education can make such an incredible difference in where you can go and what you can do to give back to your community, because of the experiences you are
Q. What do you see as Drury's strengths?
A. The interpersonal relationship between students, faculty and staff is far and away the biggest plus. It's obvious to me, working with alumni, that Drury has provided that kind of experience throughout its history. The alumni whom I've had the chance to meet and work with are so incredibly dedicated to this institution.
The quality of the educational programs offered here is also a major strength. It is evident that the faculty and administration are willing to work together. It is a growing, vibrant, living place, both in terms of building new buildings, which is important, and also in terms of program growth. People at Drury are willing to look down the road and anticipate change and ask, "What do we have to do to get there?" It's innovative and not afraid of change.
Q. What do you see as your greatest challenge as VP for Development?
A. Judy Martin had tremendous success in obtaining gifts to the university, to help it grow. So, continuing on in that tradition will be a personal challenge, to say to myself, "Am I up to the task of continuing on in that tradition?" We are entering into a phase where we have to think about what motivates people more than we ever did before. We've seen a lot of changes in society, with the whole big bulge of the baby boomers - I'm one of them - and we're different than the World War II generation of our parents. People my age went through Vietnam and the Watergate scandals and all that. In the baby boom generation, there seems to be a bit of an inherent mistrust of institutions. A huge challenge will be to figure out what motivates people in changing generations and discover what binds them back to their university, to carry on that tradition of support of our parents' generation.
Q. What tangible plans are you making to build on the legacy of Judy Martin in endowment support and capital campaign support?
A. Right now, we are looking at the strengths of the staff, getting the team together with a new captain, and building our team. We believe it is crucial to work with our board of trustees, to see what their vision is for the future of this institution. What do they want Drury to be? How do we get a structure in place to get us where we need to be, to continue the legacy? We are working with the board of trustees to define where we are headed, to lay a course, a very defined, planned-out course, and to set some priorities. Once we know what we want to accomplish first, second and third, then we'll figure out how we go about getting gifts to make that happen. I think that's kind of a newer venture, that we have come to realize the need for greater emphasis on involving alumni and trustees to set a direction so that we're very targeted in our approach to getting support for the university.
Q. What do you see for the future of Drury's alumni activities and programs?
A. Drury has always had a number of alumni events, and it's a good thing to have alumni events, because it brings people back to campus and enables them to develop a connectedness back to Drury. We have young people and we have older people. How do we connect all alumni back to the campus? It used to be that you thought about events.
But times are changing. I go back to that baby boomer age thing. They may not want to go to an event. They may not want to go to a dinner and spend their time that way. We work on trying to define what certain age groups of alumni want, what activities they enjoy and how they want to be connected to their campus. So instead of just sitting here and planning alumni events, there will be a lot more asking the alumni what they want.