historical photo of Drury Lane with cars from the 1950's and graduates walking.

Drury University's History

Drury was founded in 1873 to offer an environment of strong academic discourse and intellectual achievement. Its founders, Congregationalist home missionaries, felt the need for an academically strong liberal arts college in Southwest Missouri. Drury was patterned after the Congregationalist liberal arts colleges of the North, institutions like Oberlin, Carleton, Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard. After much debate, Springfield was chosen over Neosho, Missouri as the college’s location. James and Charles Harwood of Springfield, the Reverend Nathan Morrison of Olivet, Michigan, and Samuel Drury of Otsego, Michigan joined to organize and endow what they initially named Springfield College. Samuel Drury’s financial gift of $25,000 was the largest, and the college was renamed for his recently deceased son. Reverend Morrison was chosen as president and rang the bell to begin classes on September 25, 1873.

The early curriculum emphasized education, religion, and music. Students came to the college from a wide area, including western Oklahoma. In 1875, Drury celebrated its first graduating class of five students, all of whom were women.

Drury started small, in a single building. When classes begin in 1873, the campus occupied fewer than 1 ½ acres. Twenty-five years later, the campus had expanded to 40 acres, which included Stone Chapel, the President’s house, and three academic buildings. Today, there is a 90-acre campus that encompasses the original site.

Drury College became Drury University on January 1, 2000, reflecting its growing role in higher education. In addition to the established academic programs of early years, Drury students today study in the Breech School of Business Administration, the Hammons School of Architecture, and the Shewmaker Communication Center. They delve into diverse topics encompassing the humanities, the sciences, and the arts. Drury’s offered majors and minors have evolved throughout the years, growing to reflect society’s changing needs.

Drury was one of the first universities in Missouri to offer continuing education and evening classes to meet the needs of non-traditional students. Today, the College of Continuing Professional Studies serves nearly three thousand students in Springfield and throughout the region.

At the university’s core remains unchanging commitment to preparing students to live and work in today’s world. Diversity, service to communities, and quality academics are benchmarks of a Drury education.

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