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Presentation explores Drury University’s story of civil rights, diversity and inclusion

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., February 7, 2020 — A presentation about Drury University’s history as it relates to diversity and inclusion will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 26 at Clara Thompson Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

William Garvin, director of the Olin Library and Drury’s longtime archivist, will give the presentation titled, “If We Introduced Ourselves in That Character.” The title is taken from a statement by Dr. Nathan Jackson Morrison, Drury’s first president, during a discussion regarding the possible admission of African American students at the time of the college’s 1873 founding. Drury was founded by Congregationalist missionaries who sought, in part, to heal the wounds of the Civil War through education. Drury’s early students came to the college from a wide area, including Native Americans from Oklahoma. In 1875, Drury celebrated its first graduating class of five students, all of whom were women.

The presentation is an honest and historically balanced exploration of the topic, Garvin says, covering aspects of the institution’s history that can be remembered with pride, as well as other moments where Drury failed to live up to its ideals.

“As an institution that is devoted to learning and the discovery of truth, I think it is important that we celebrate our proud moments, but that we also reflect upon the points in our history that I think we would rather forget,” Garvin says. “Two of the founding principles of Drury were reconciliation and understanding, and I hope that this presentation will continue our ongoing commitment to those principles.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about an important aspect of Drury history, and we’re really pleased to be able to share this story with the broader Springfield community as well as our students, faculty and staff,” says Marilyn Harris, chief human resources and diversity inclusion officer. “It’s fitting that we speak to this issue now, as we continue celebrating Black History Month.”


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