Good afternoon everyone and please accept my personal and professional thank you for attending today’s installation. As you know, today’s event represents the culmination of a week of activities that celebrate the special talents, the calling and the mission of Drury University. I owe a special debt of gratitude to that special friend of our family, Ms. Tynan Davis, who lent her beautiful voice to the magnificent orchestral sounds of the Springfield-Drury Symphony Orchestra and the Drury Singers; together, they offered a memorable musical beginning to the week on Tuesday evening. To accomplish this was no small feat and I also offer special thanks to those in the Drury Department of Music whose members helped facilitate the event. Tuesday evening was initiated with a wonderful art exhibit that centered on work of our students and alumni and I hope you had an opportunity to enjoy their work in the Pool Art Center. Wednesday was consumed with a wide array of service projects that Drury faculty, staff and students contributed to across Springfield, Greene County and southwest Missouri. These volunteers offered hundreds of hours to both existing projects at many of our non-profit partners and to new projects that have special impetus and endorsement this year, such as the massive regional shoe collection aimed at helping those in need to raise funds for the homeless and those in financial stress. To Courtney Swan, the Student Union Board, and to the Student Government Association, thank you for your enormous support and formidable organizing effort that created a wonderful set of venues for Drury to have great service impacts. Finally, I am very grateful for this year’s Convocation Series, “The Morality of Wellness” and although it was somewhat unexpected by Mr. Matt O’Reilly, I very much appreciate his willingness to include his address in this week’s activities.
To begin today’s event, I want to thank my colleagues who have offered good wishes and greetings from the faculty, staff, student body and the Springfield community. Your participation today is a wonderful testament to the warm embrace of the Drury University community, to the mutual commitment we all hold for learning and the significance we place in a vibrant and partnering relationship with our larger community. I will have more to say shortly about these testaments, commitments and partnerships momentarily.
As you know these activities and the schedules’ planning is not something left to happenstance. A wonderful committee of faculty, staff and students has worked very diligently over the last three months to stage this week’s events and to ensure that the overall thrust answered the call of the Drury University mission. My special thanks go to Chairman, Dr. John Taylor, and committee members, Ms. Amy Blansit, Dr. Peter Browning, Mr. Max Byers, Mr. Jay Gulshen, Ms. Dawn Hiles, Ms. Jann Holland, Mr. Weston Kissee, Mr. Kevin Long, Mr. Michael Thomas, Ms. Courtney Swan, and Dr. Resa Willis.
Of course, I owe special thanks to Lynn Chipperfield, Chairman of the Drury University Board of Trustees, and to all of his colleague Board members. My original impressions of this governing board were clearly influenced by the search process, by my initial interactions with the members who served on the search committee and the subsequent meetings we participated in during the transition months. They are committed to the success of Drury University students, to the mission of the institution and to ensuring that Drury is prepared for the success and strong future envisioned by the founders. This is indeed a heavy responsibility, but one that every Board member takes seriously and has contributed his/her time, talents and treasure at various times to ensure success and advancement. Our mutual dependency is not something that we value as happenstance; this mutuality is designed around the mission of Drury University and is grounded in Drury’s ever-changing adaptation to the world around it and to its place in the future. Thank you for being a part of this mutual dependency and for asking me to join you and the University in this journey.
Finally, thank you for your generous and warm welcome that you have offered Betty Coe and me these past few months. You have collectively and individually extended your hands and hearts to us and we will always be most grateful. Our hope is that we can return the generosity and give back to Springfield and Missouri in an equal measure.
In just five days, Drury University will celebrate the 140th anniversary of its founding and by my reckoning, this places it within the 100 oldest universities in the United States. As many of you know, Drury’s four founders were driven to bring the best of private higher learning to the Midwest that could be found in the centers of learning on the East Coast. Yet driven as they were to create a wellspring of education, they were committed to creating such on a platform that welcomed all, that prepared all for the world that awaited them and that encouraged all Drury graduates (in the words of the first president, Nathan L. Morrison) “…. in the future of life to: ‘look up … not down, look forward … not backward, and look out … not in!” These 140 years have been marked by a university that struggled with its organizational and financial infancy, by stages of early maturation that mirrored the recovery of the country after the Civil War, by an overt and early commitment to equality and access to higher education by all, by an early understanding that “as Drury goes, so goes Springfield and vice versa…,” and by a common thread through the years that has translated the heritage of the University into a mission that speaks to each era and cohort of students.
I have chosen to tie three common threads through the Drury University heritage in the theme of my comments this afternoon - Learn, Engage and Serve; my hope is that these will link to a better understanding of both the Mission and Vision of Drury University. Only by linking these threads, opening a conversation regarding existing and upcoming challenges and weaving these together can we map a future for Drury University that will provide a 21st Century response to President Morrison’s call to: ‘look up … not down, look forward … not backward, and look out … not in!”
Drury’s unabashed commitment to personalized learning is envied by many. The anchor of that learning is our faculty who place student-centered classroom, laboratory and external experiences at the forefront of all that they impart. The learning I refer to is obviously the understanding of respective fields of inquiry and the acquisition of skills and talents; the pedagogies are clearly intent on more than simply conveying knowledge or opportunities to ‘come to know something.’ The personalized education of Drury University leads students to discovery, to seeking solutions, to unearthing and to reassembling knowledge in ways that enable the student to make intellectual connections. By my way of thinking, this engagement of faculty and students via personalized learning is the key hallmark of a Drury education and primary vehicle leading to this connectivity.
Engagement of all of our resources to effectuate learning is essential if we are to achieve our mission. In the process of this engagement, we interlock, involve and bind ourselves together in the common goal of learning. As our faculty and our staff engage our students, we essentially constrain one another such that we become complementary and indispensable to one another. This indispensability is unique to the liberal arts university that focuses on the intensity of engagement inside and outside of the classroom. Our larger public peers are desperately trying to achieve this engagement with various vehicles that attempt to personalize the education they are offering. Drury University lives this engagement every day and our alumni repeatedly confirm the significance of this feature of their Drury experience as a leading factor contributing to their success. I will return shortly to this theme of engagement and to what I will offer as our challenge and our opportunity.
A portion of the Drury University Vision Statement offers: “… Drury University …will educate students to become engaged, ethical and compassionate citizens for servant leadership ….” Isn’t it curious that the word “engaged” appears again, but now with respect to service? To be a servant to others, one must stand by others and attend to their needs. Drury University has multigenerational credit and experience of attending to others, to making the community a better place in which to live, and to contributing to the common enterprise of society… the common good. Indeed, one need look no farther than to the attendance in this Stone Chapel to see the extraordinary commitment to service demonstrated by the dozens of alumni, faculty, staff and students. Our future together demands that Drury University’s commitment to serve the community will only strengthen through the decades ahead. When commenting on Robert Greenleaf’s work on servant leadership, Carl Rieser once wrote: “I rather feel that this is what servant-leadership is all about: the search for wholeness in a broken world.” I would submit to you that this may be a companion interpretation of the mission of Drury University in growing servant-leadership among our students: “… a search for wholeness in a broken world.”
Throughout the history of American higher education the discussion of the value of a liberal arts education has ebbed and flowed. In 1873 the discussion centered on the essential mission of simply providing the very best that could be provided. In the past 140 years the debate was influenced by federal policy (Morrill Act), geographic demands of regions to develop regional economies, post-industrial growth and social change, demographic needs influenced by the end of major conflicts that caused massive population demands, and social justice movements characterized by the need for wider access. Today the debate is more likely cast in the mold of technological change, economic cycles and their impact on families, the cost of providing higher education and the long run rate of return of earning a degree.
A recent survey by the Lumina Foundation and the Gallup Organization reports that “… three-quarters (of Americans surveyed) said college is unaffordable. And more than half said the quality of higher education is the same as or worse than in the past.” Other similar surveys of parents confirm that we have failed to convince parents of the value of a liberal arts education or of its affordability. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that employers clearly understand and value the outcomes associated with a liberal arts education. How do we know this?
Just this year the Association of American Colleges and Universities and Hart Research Associates published results of a broad employer survey that sought to learn “Employer Priorities and Consensus on College Learning Outcomes.” The following are learning outcomes that employers agree that regardless of a student’s chosen field of study, EVERY STUDENT SHOULD ATTAIN THIS AREA OF KNOWLEDGE OR SKILL
A sampling of those learning outcomes that employers say they want colleges and universities to “PLACE MORE EMPHASIS” on include:
We would surmise from this that we have done a wonderful job at communicating with employers, public and private sector partners and our students on the value of the liberal arts, but we have failed to broadly influence parents and some community partners in the value of the liberal arts to individual and collective futures. My interpretation of these survey results and the current discussion in higher education is that we must reinforce the belief that a credential is a necessary component for employment or graduate and professional school entry, but it is not sufficient for overall long term success as one progresses through numerous career and life changes. All of this discussion seems to call us to deliberately rearticulate and perhaps translate the language of the liberal arts for the 21st Century.
Within the context of this rearticulation and translation, one of our longest serving presidents (1940-1964) offered the following as his interpretation of a Drury education in the tradition of the liberal arts: “The liberal arts college should provide:
The Drury mission calls for a Drury education that “… seeks to cultivate spiritual sensibilities and imaginative faculties as well as ethical insight and critical thought.” The wonderful ecumenical invitation of the founders of Drury University is manifested in this phrase and in the further visionary aspiration to create servant leaders of our students. In whatever way we choose, it is incumbent on us to assist our students to delve deeply into their own hearts to find the pathway to deeply rewarding personal lives. For me that personal pathway to servant leadership can be best told by someone else, through a parable that I keep returning to.
In their very moving account of personal leadership, Professors Lee Bolman and Terry Deal offer an interpretation of a story by the mystic, Andrew Harvey. “There was a man who lived in Istanbul, a poor man. One night he dreamed vividly of a very great treasure. In a courtyard, through a door, he saw a pile of blazing jewels heaped by the side of an old man with a beard. In the dream, a voice told him an address, 3 Stassanopoulis Street, Cairo. Because he had learned enough to trust his dream visions, he went on a long arduous journey to 3 Stassannopoulis Street in Cairo. One day, many years later, he came to that doorway, entered through it into a courtyard full of light, saw the old man from his dream sitting on the bench, went up to him, and said, “I had a dream many years ago, and in the dream I saw you sitting exactly where you are sitting now, and I saw this great heap of treasure by you. I have come to tell you my dream and to claim my treasure.” The old man smiled, embraced him, and said, “How strange, I had a dream last night that under a bed in a poor house in Istanbul there was the greatest treasure I have ever seen.” At that moment, the poor man saw that what he had been looking for all those years was really under his own bed, in his own heart, at the core of his own life.” As Drury University approaches the end of its sesquicentennial, I ask that you join me in recommitting ourselves to our roles as advisers and mentors who help students probe the depth of their lives and the soundness of their beliefs so that they leave Drury University with a disposition of life that will carry them confidently as ethical and moral citizens.
My third and final challenge for the coming years surrounds how Drury University will engage with this Century that we have just begun and how we will embark on a determined path leading to our 150th anniversary. First of all, we must not shrink from our responsibility to engage and connect energetically with all of our constituents. In the face of challenges, there is a temptation to focus inward and to ignore the world around us. Introspection can assist us only if it leads to improvement and I am urging us to undertake serious introspection with the goal of optimizing our resources, engaging our students in new and innovative ways, engaging our community and region to demonstrably improve lives and learning, and prompting our colleagues to undertake new ways of educating Drury students.
The viable university of the coming years must find new and innovative ways of engaging its students where we find them and where they find Drury University. Virtual settings for our students are nothing new, but we must be very deliberate to commit ourselves to delivering a A DRURY EDUCATION USING THE TECHNOLOGY VEHICLES THAT WILL RESULT IN DRURY OUTCOMES. Using technology for the sake of using technology is not what we are called to do. Similarly, the extraordinary speed with which information flows is numbing the senses and, to some, adding confusion about the value of internationalization. Internationalization of universities has progressed beyond curricula and cultural immersions. Of course there is immense value in learning while immersed in a different culture, but I would ask that my Drury colleagues reinvigorate the interpersonal dimensions of internationalization so that international relationships, friendships, and professional ties are strengthened; using the Internet and other technologies to communicate with others around the world does not mean that we have become international citizens. The Drury mission of “contributing to a global community” is a goal that is enlivened by the people in the various international settings who translate the Drury mission into action.
The commitment to the Drury heritage is grounded in the commitment to “innovative teaching and scholarship.” To be innovative requires that we embrace and engage change; such change is not mutually exclusive of the tenets of the heritage. One could argue that the heritage of the institution has stood the test of time by its ability to demonstrate relevance in the face of change. Many in higher education seem to have seeded the high ground of innovation in teaching and learning to those who were the early adopters of technology. I would argue that now that the wheat has been separated from the chaff, now is the opportunity to rightfully embrace technology as the tool or vehicle that it is and to reignite and restrengthen the linkage of liberal arts and professional studies. The technological tools and software available to us are inert in what they can deliver. Only through the human brain, senses and heart can the true learning connections be made; therefore, let us embrace technology as the vehicle that it is and discover ways that we can use it to strengthen our academic, personal and professional connections.
My final challenge to viability is the caution that we adapt and progress with a deliberateness. Our vision calls for us to educate students to participate in “communities characterized by change, complexity and global interdependence” and the viability of the Drury heritage is determined by how effective it speaks to the present. We must model the behavior and traits of all effective teachers and mentors and the characteristics that we expect of our students. These traits of adaptation and progress do not threaten the content of what we deliver; the adaptation and progress are rather impacted by the speed with which we implement our plan. The deterioration of these features - viability, adaptation, progress and deliberateness – is corrected by only one action, REFOCUSING ON OUR MISSION AND OUR VISION. In the roughest of seas, Drury’s mission and vision are the outline of our horizon. Join me as we take to heart the words of our first president: “look up … not down, look forward … not backward, and look out … not in!”