Drury University’s History

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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, Drury GO 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.

Drury Details

A History of Drury's Presidents

Nathan J. Morrison.Nathan J. Morrison

The First President (1873-1885) 

This official “first” generation of Drury was a generation of seeding, growth and social reconstruction. On September 25, 1873, Drury College officially opened as Dr. Morrison appeared in a second-floor window of the new college building, announcing the college was open for the first day of classes. It was a successful start for the college; 39 students, including seven Native Americans, were enrolled on opening day, and despite the college opening with a faculty of only three (the president and two professors), the word and reputation of the college spread quickly and faculty numbers grew to nine by 1875.

Also during Dr. Morrison’s tenure, Drury saw growth in enrollment, faculty ranks and in buildings, including West Academy Building, East Academy Building, Fairbanks Hall and Stone Chapel. Only Stone Chapel remains today.

Despite his many successes in establishing the college, Dr. Morrison’s ambitious spending caused irreparable animosity among faculty and trustees. The cost of both the music conservatory, a community program with no ties to any of Drury’s academic programs, and erecting large buildings hurled the college into an interest-bearing debt. In 1885, Dr. Morrison reported Drury carried a debt of $36,000, more than twice the college’s annual operating budget. The division between Dr. Morrison and the board eventually led to the president’s resignation after serving for 12 years.

Francis T. Ingalls.Francis T. Ingalls

The Second President (1888-1892)

Dr. Francis T. Ingalls’ tenure was a prosperous time for Drury. Thanks partly to contributions made by trustees, funds were raised to eradicate Drury’s debt of $36,000. For the first time, Drury was debt-free and prosperous.

Dr. Ingalls also saw the completion of the rebuilding of Stone Chapel after a fire destroyed the original in 1882, and as a result it was possible to hold Commencement exercises on campus for the first time.

After alleviating the financial strain caused by Morrison’s overspending, Dr. Ingalls had ambitious plans for the campus including constructing a new Ladies Hall, as well as raising $15,000 for an emergency fund.

Unfortunately, Dr. Ingalls’ time as president ended abruptly when he fell ill and died in August of 1892. Despite his death, his efforts provided the much-needed financial health Drury needed for years to come.

Homer T. Fuller.Homer T. Fuller

The Third President (1893-1905)

Dr. Homer T. Fuller’s 12 years of leadership was a banner decade for Drury, piggybacking on the successes of Ingalls’ short tenure. Inheriting a debt-free institution, Fuller focused his attention on further enhancing the college’s financial, academic and physical well-being. Among his many notable achievements, Dr. Fuller’s successful completion of a $45,000 endowment campaign, which raised the value of the endowment to more than a quarter of a million dollars, is probably the most admirable accomplishment. During Fuller’s tenure, Drury also saw the construction of new key buildings, including Pearsons Hall and the President’s House.

Drury’s athletic program experienced growth during Dr. Fuller’s tenure, with the addition of basketball and the adoption of the Panther as the college’s official mascot. While Fuller was supportive of collegiate athletics, he also communicated his firm belief in academics over athletics.

In 1904, Dr. Fuller disclosed his plan to retire. Because of the immense success the college had seen during his tenure, Dr. Fuller’s retirement was met with protest from faculty, students and the Board of Trustees, which resulted in his agreement to remain president until 1905.

J. Edward Kirbye.J. Edward Kirbye

The Fourth President (1905-1907)

Dr. J. Edward Kirbye, a longtime Drury professor, only served as president for two years, but several notable academic developments occurred during his short administration. Inheriting a financially robust institution, Dr. Kirbye turned his focus to improving and developing a new, rigorous academic program to better compete with Drury’s first competitor in Springfield, the new Fourth District Normal School (now Missouri State University), a public state school.

Within the new academic program, affiliated departments were introduced, including the Department of Military Science and Tactics, and the Department of Biblical Literature. This new academic program was thought to have been among the most robust and rigorous academic programs in the Midwest. In 1906, the Board of Trustees officially approved the introduction of national fraternities to the Drury campus. 

Aside from his activities as president, Dr. Kirbye also demonstrated his own skills as a teacher in a course in Biblical Literature. He resigned from the presidency in 1907, but remained a professor of Biblical Literature for several years.

Joseph Henry George.Joseph Henry George

The Fifth President (1907-1913)

Dr. Joseph Henry George, a Canadian religious education scholar, inherited the first financial deficit the college had seen since 1888, caused by Kirbye’s focus on academics. Nevertheless, Dr. George completed a $250,000 endowment campaign and nearly eradicated the small deficit that Kirbye had instilled on the college’s finances. Dr. George also added a new gymnasium (now Springfield Hall), Burnham Hall, a central heating and electric sub-plant and the first student union.

Dr. George sought to further expand Drury’s academic programs, introducing “majors” during the 1907-08 academic year, as well as the beginning of pre-medical and pre-engineering programs. Also added were the School of the Bible, a seminary-like program, and the Department of Education.

Fatigued from battling financial strains caused by a struggling U.S. economy, Dr. George resigned from the presidency in 1913, but retained his professorship of Religious Education for five more years.

J. J. McMurtry.J. J. McMurtry

The Sixth President (1913-1916)

Dr. J. J. McMurtry, professor of Greek and a valued member of the faculty, was named president after Dr. George’s resignation in 1913. Dr. McMurtry believed that the student body should have a governing voice in student and institutional affairs and, with his signature, Drury’s Student Council officially became a representative student senate in 1914. By 1915, college accreditation had become a national prestige requirement. Paying close attention to this trend, McMurtry was eager to attain a national accreditation and led the charge in granting Drury her first accreditation with the North Central Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges.

Dr. McMurtry’s tenure was also plagued with financial hardship. Low enrollment and dwindling revenues led McMurtry to close the Academy, Drury’s affiliated preparatory school. Granted, the decision was inevitable, as funding the school as a separate institution from the college had been chock-full of financial strain for many years prior to its closing.

Further undercutting Dr. McMurtry’s tenure was an untimely and unsuccessful start to a $500,000 endowment campaign. This led to Dr. McMurtry’s resignation in 1916, after less than three years as president.

Thomas Nadal.Thomas Nadal

The Seventh President (1917-1939)

Thomas Nadal’s presidency was difficult from the beginning and Drury was in a near-constant state of flux. A stroke of political bad luck, Nadal was hired just one week before the United States entered World War I. The war took its toll on the college’s enrollment, as enlistment into the U.S. military left a mere nine men in the 1918-19 senior class. Making matters worse, Nadal inherited a growing financial deficit, spurred by his predecessor’s failed ambitions.

In addition to the sharp decline in enrollment, the war also put a strain on physical and monetary resources. Rationing of metals, lumber, coal and other precious operation and maintenance materials led to difficulty in properly maintaining Drury’s campus. Despite the strains of war, however, Nadal set about the difficult task of increasing Drury’s endowment and lowering Drury’s deficit.

After the war ended, Drury’s enrollment skyrocketed, leading to tightened admission requirements and higher standards. By 1924, Nadal’s efforts paid off as the endowment surpassed a value of $1 million, and Drury was again debt-free. His perseverance led to the construction of three buildings, including Harwood Library, Clara Thompson Music Hall and Wallace Hall.

This rapid growth and expansion eventually led to financial trouble. In 1929, the Great Depression spread across the nation and by 1932, the college’s deficit was more than $60,000. By the time the financial crisis began to turn, neglected upkeep and repair had left a majority of Drury’s buildings in a state of disrepair.

Two successful fundraising campaigns paid for repairs to a number of buildings, but the college’s financial troubles had become a complaint about Drury’s leadership. The Board of Trustees unanimously adopted a resolution that Nadal retire in 1939.

James F. Findlay. James F. Findlay

The Eighth President (1940-1963)

James F. Findlay was hired in 1940, just a little more than one year before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Unlike World War I, enrollment increased during World War II, as the number of incoming freshmen was far greater than the number lost to the war effort. An aggressive recruitment policy and the newly implemented Drury Plan – a curriculum that allowed students to craft their own courses of study with help from advisors – played a major role in the boosted enrollment. Between the end of the war and the 1949-50 school year, enrollment grew exponentially from 489 to 901 students.

The postwar enrollment growth led to a surge in new construction over the next several years. New buildings included Weiser Gym, Atha Pool, Turner, Belle and Sunderland residence halls, the Panhellenic building and Walker Library.

With Drury’s continued growth during the late 1940s, Findlay began looking for ways to enroll World War II and Korean War veterans, working men and mothers, who were unable to enroll in Drury’s existing programs. In 1947, Drury initiated an evening college program that enrolled more than 400 students its first year.

Findlay concluded that Drury was lacking an appropriate school of business administration. In 1958, a successful Drury alumnus, Ernest Breech, gave $500,000 in seed money that eventually led to the Breech School of Business Administration and the Master of Business Administration degree program.

Drury remained prosperous throughout the duration of Findlay’s presidency. When he retired in 1963, Drury was flourishing and experiencing continued growth in enrollment in both the traditional college and the evening college program.

Earnest Brandenburg.Earnest Brandenburg

The Ninth President (1964-1967)

During Dr. Earnest Brandenburg’s ambitious presidency, Drury saw a continuum of the fantastic changes started by his predecessor. To exemplify Drury’s academic rigor and quality of education, Dr. Brandenburg drastically tightened admission requirements for the college, while simultaneously raising tuition. His goal was, of course, to bring more money to the institution and to fund his proposed faculty expansion and salary raises. Additionally, his tightened admission requirements and hike in tuition was an effort to establish Drury as an elite, highly-prestigious institution.

Following other colleges’ lead, Brandenburg also established the office of Development and Alumni Affairs, which greatly increased donations. In academics, Dr. Brandenburg approved major revisions and additions of the curriculum, including stronger graduation prerequisites, to be developed by the college’s faculty.

Drury was flourishing and further developing her national reputation as an exceptional, elite institution. Unfortunately, Brandenburg’s success was cut short and he would not see many of his endeavors become reality. In 1967, just three short years into his presidency, he died of cancer. Thanks to his work, the academic and campus improvements allowed Drury to continue to experience growth in enrollment, strong academics and revenue.

Alfred O. Canon.Alfred O. Canon

The Tenth President (1968-1970)

Drury saw an entirely different, more cautious form of leadership with Dr. Alfred O. Canon’s short presidency. Following a growing trend in colleges across the country, Dr. Canon established three governance cabinets composed of faculty, administration and students to advise him in all aspects of Drury’s operation.

Under Dr. Canon, the new curriculum begun by Dr. Brandenburg was implemented. He also expanded international studies and implemented study abroad opportunities.

Dr. Canon’s presidency was marred by faculty tensions “as the result of high turnover and increasing competition between faculty and cabinet members.” Due to his overly cautious leadership, faculty tensions and wavering academics, Drury experienced a sharp decline in enrollment, as well as a return to a growing, unmanaged annual deficit. Dr. Canon was terminated in 1970 after less than two years in office.

William Edward Everheart.William Edward Everheart

The Eleventh President (1971-1976)

Drury was a broken institution when Dr. William Everheart took the reins of the college in 1971. Unrest and stark divisions had caused animosity among faculty, staff and student leadership, and there was a sense of distrust for Drury’s administration following Dr. Canon’s presidency.

Dr. Everheart attempted to restore a sense of calm and unity to Drury. Reverting to Drury’s Christian framework, Dr. Everheart hoped a sense of religious community would mend the wounds and establish renewed friendship, leadership and trust across campus. He also worked diligently toward alleviating the financial struggles that had reemerged. By the end of his first year in office, Drury’s budget was balanced and the deficit was eliminated yet again.

Dr. Everheart also changed dormitory policies, believing that by granting female students many of the same privileges that male students enjoyed, any animosity between male and female students would dissipate quickly. Though the change was met with some resistance initially by members of the board, the policies were largely well-received.

Everheart’s advances in unifying a distraught Drury came to an untimely end when he was killed in a car/train accident in 1976, having served Drury for only five years. Thanks to Dr. Everheart’s efforts in calming tensions and unifying the college, Drury was on the mend. Faculty were making strides to eliminate old feuds and students, faculty and staff were reestablishing their trust in the administration.

John M. Bartholomy.John M. Bartholomy

The Twelfth President (1977-1980)

The sense of calm and unity was relatively short-lived after the death of Dr. Everheart. In 1978, during Dr. John Bartholomy’s presidency, Drury saw the return of financial strain, which ultimately led to a reduction in faculty and staff. The reduction in faculty and staff was cause for the return of some bitter feuds and a distrust in leadership. However, Drury also experienced growth during Dr. Bartholomy’s three-year presidency.

In 1978, Dr. Bartholomy’s new, aggressive enrollment strategy led to one of the largest freshman classes in Drury’s history. The physical plant, Pearsons Hall and Stone Chapel were all expanded or renovated, and the Performing Arts Complex project was completed, including the renovation of Clara Thompson Hall and the construction of the O’Bannon Music and the Lydy Art Centers.

Further, academic departments were reorganized under Dr. Bartholomy. He combined departments to create cohesive and definitive new departments such as Behavioral Science and Fine Arts. Additionally, three new major programs of study were introduced to the academic catalog, including accounting, architecture and criminology, before Dr. Bartholomy resigned the presidency in 1980.

Norman C. Crawford, Jr. Norman C. Crawford, Jr.

The Thirteenth President (1981-1983)

When Norman C. Crawford, Jr. was elected to serve as Drury’s 13th president, the campus atmosphere turned rocky, unstable and volatile. From the start, Mr. Crawford attempted to make drastic policy and academic changes without the support of the faculty, leading to a rather brief tenure as president.

Among his few accomplishments, Stone Chapel became a nationally registered historical site, as well as a reduction in the college’s debt. However, the near-constant conflict between Mr. Crawford and the college’s faculty grew to unmanageable heights. In 1983, the Board of Trustees asked Mr. Crawford to resign after less than two years in office.



John E. Moore, Jr. John E. Moore, Jr.

The Fourteenth President (1983-2004)

When Dr. John E. Moore Jr. was hired in 1983, Drury lacked a definitive direction or vision and held a crippling cumulative deficit of $920,259. With promises to ease tensions, eliminate the near-$1 million debt and provide sound leadership, Dr. Moore was thought to have aimed “too high,” but the college remained optimistic.

Within three years, Dr. Moore had eliminated the deficit, eventually building a surplus that had grown to more than $1.4 million by 1998. Also during Dr. Moore’s tenure, Drury’s endowment value grew to nearly $100 million.

Dr. Moore oversaw admirable growth in enrollment and academic programs, and implemented the Global Perspectives for the 21st Century (GP21) – the largest major overhaul of the curriculum in Drury’s history. The GP21 program was an innovative, critically acclaimed program which prepared students to benefit from and contribute to life in a global community.

During Dr. Moore’s presidency, Drury’s campus and facilities underwent massive expansion and renovation. New buildings included the Hammons School of Architecture, Trustee Science Center and Olin Library. Drury’s athletics program joined the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1993-94. Additionally, Drury College became Drury University in 2000.

Drury saw success under the care and leadership of Dr. Moore’s administration. Dr. Moore retired from office in 2004 after nearly 21 years of successful service.

John Sellars.John Sellars

The Fifteenth President (2005-2007)

During Dr. John Sellars’ tenure, Drury saw a record number of 500 new students in the fall of 2006, and ended the 2005-2006 fiscal year with $13.9 million in donations. Additionally, the process of accreditation for the Breech School of Business from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) continued during Sellars’ term. This accreditation was earned in 2010; an honor only 5% of the world’s business programs hold. Substantial fiscal challenges and resulting campus anxiety also characterized his years at Drury. In 2007, Dr. Sellers accepted a new position at Graceland University.



Todd Parnell.Todd Parnell

The Sixteenth President (2007-2013)

Hoping to alleviate the stresses of the growing financial and enrollment deficit, Drury looked toward Todd Parnell, a 1969 Drury graduate and accomplished banker, after John Sellars’ early resignation. Within the first two years of his direction and leadership, the deficit was dwindling and enrollment had begun to grow.

Mr. Parnell turned his leadership focus toward a “students first” mentality. He fostered close working relationships between the administration and the student body. Mr. Parnell was the first president to actively participate in freshman move-in and orientation service activities, and was instrumental in developing an award-winning orientation program still enjoyed by students today.

Under Mr. Parnell’s presidency, the O’Reilly Family Event Center was built in 2010 to house Drury’s basketball teams, the growing athletics department and to provide an event venue for the Springfield community. Academically, Mr. Parnell oversaw the creation and implementation of the new CORE curriculum, which replaced the near two-decade old GP21 curriculum in fall 2012.

Mr. Parnell’s students first mentality provided Drury with a renewed sense of community and fostered a mutual trust between the administration and the student body for the first time. He retired in 2013 after nearly six years in office.

David Manuel.David Manuel

The Seventeenth President (2013-2016)

When Dr. David Manuel took office in June 2013, he inherited a bland campus and a dilapidated and vacant president’s house. As master gardeners, he and Drury’s then First Lady, Betty Coe Manuel, developed plans of beautification and revitalization of barren areas. Gardens, green spaces and the president’s house received extensive renovations and revitalizations, providing beautiful and functional spaces that had previously been lackluster.

Academically, Dr. Manuel experimented with department consolidation and restructuring, though it was met with resistance from faculty and students. He retired in May 2016 after nearly three years in office.


Tim Cloyd.J. Timothy Cloyd

The Eighteenth President (2016-present)

Drury’s newest generation is full of excitement and change. Immediately after taking office in June 2016, Dr. Cloyd began looking for ways to modernize Drury academically and physically, eliminate the university’s debt, raise the endowment and counter the decline in enrollment. Looking for a solution, he launched four major initiatives:

  • Strategic Positioning Platform
  • Comprehensive Campaign
  • Master Plan
  • Evening and Online Programs

Already under Dr. Cloyd’s leadership, Drury has experienced an increase in enrollment and an easing of financial difficulties. Additionally, the new Campus Master Plan was approved by the Board of Trustees and unveiled in 2017, providing a clear direction for the future of the university. Other early accomplishments include the addition of the Presidents’ Garden, completion the Strategic Positioning Platform and the development of the new curriculum, which will be launched in fall 2018.

Drury is well on her way to a great future in the 21st century under Dr. Cloyd’s watchful presidency.

Updated May 2018

Alma Mater

Hail! alma mater
Drury to thee
We pledge in word and deed
Our loyalty
Raising this hymn of praise
Til heavens ring; 
Hail! alma mater
Drury, we sing

Christ and humanity
Thy motto strong;
Firm stand thy children true
Against the wrong;
Honor thy watchword,
Service thy aim;
Hail! alma mater
Drury, proclaim

Thy spirit as a fire
Burns in each breast;
With courage drawn from thee
We spur our quest;
Grand be thy destiny
For thee we pray;
Hail! alma mater
Drury alway

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Traditional Values & Church Affiliation

It was less than a decade after the end of the Civil War when Drury’s Congregationalist founders, many of whom were abolitionists, chose Springfield, Missouri as the site for a new college. Springfield was selected, in part, because it had been so terribly scarred by war. In an early description of the college’s mission, Nathan Morrison, Drury’s first President, wrote that the college sought to “minister to the healing of the horrid wounds made by civil war.”

Drury College was founded in 1873 as an “independent church-related” college with a commitment to personalized higher education. Its Congregationalist founders envisioned an institution that would offer all students, regardless of their gender, race or creed, both a sound liberal arts education and a more practical education in various applied studies.

Drury has since maintained relationships with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. The UCC relationship dates back to the founding of the college by Congregationalists from New England. The DOC relationship was established in 1909 with the formal organization of the Drury School of Religion. Both denominational traditions have influenced Drury’s mission.

Today, the Chaplain’s Office offers a variety of spiritually-based campus activities for every member of the Drury community.

A Brief History of Drury's Two Cannons

A canon on Drury's campus.The two cannons that sit proudly in front of Pearsons and Burnham Halls are field pieces from the Civil War. The legend says that in 1885 or 1886, the governor of Missouri distributed several similar cannons to various counties for patriotic display. The two cannons sent to Greene County moved around from place to place for several years before Drury was chosen as a neutral location.

Soon after the cannons were moved to the college campus, one disappeared. For the years afterward, the remaining cannon stayed in its place in front of Pearsons Hall, occasionally used in parades and fired at patriotic celebrations. (It also occasionally had a way of going off right on the campus.) When boys from Springfield High School borrowed the cannon for a celebration in 1905, Drury’s business manager gave them permission to keep it. However, Drury students took it upon themselves to reclaim the cannon and return it to its normal place. From then on, the cannon was mounted on a solid stone pedestal. 

In 1913, the cannon that had been lost for about 20 years turned up. The employees of the Frisco shops, where it was found, had been using it for their own patriotic celebrations. A negotiation between Drury students and the Frisco supply keeper resulted in the cannon’s return to its spot in front of Burnham Hall, where it was mounted like the first. The cannons still remain on display, faithfully guarding Drury’s two halls atop their stone pedestals.