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Drury University's History: A Continuing Tradition of Excellence

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.

From the Battlefield to the College Campus: A Brief History of Drury's Two Cannons

CannonThe 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. 

Traditional Values

Drury has held to its core values since its establishment as a small liberal arts institution in 1873. These values find their origins in the university's unique church affiliation. They are responsible for an academic and spiritual environment that provides students with distinct opportunities and advantages to learn, question and grow. 

Drury’s tradition encourages students to explore ethics and spirituality in a non-judgmental, tolerant atmosphere that cherishes diversity. This atmosphere is described in early 20th century college literature:

"Nothing is more important than individuals working out for themselves a satisfactory philosophy of life. While avoiding the offenses of sectarianism, the church-related college is able to give its students definite help in arriving at adequate standards of value in relation to religion and the spiritual life." 

The need for a satisfactory philosophy of life has not been diminished in the complex global community that characterizes the twenty-first century.

For more than 140 years, Drury has maintained a commitment to small classes and personal interactions among students, staff, faculty and administration. Early 1900s college literature emphasized small size as a means to:

"...maintain a personal relationship between students and teachers, as well as among the students themselves. This affords a distinct advantage for youth seeking to find their proper place in life and to develop the latent resources of character and personality."

In an America quite different from the time those words were written, these advantages are still vital, desirable and available at Drury.