In September, Drury University will mark the start of its 150th year.
President Tim Cloyd said the private liberal arts institution is now planning how to celebrate the milestone and the contributions of the campus and its students since 1873.
“We’re going to celebrate that in the fall and ring the commemorative bell, similar to the one they rang years ago when they opened classes at Drury,” Cloyd said. “We’re looking forward to that. We have a lot of events planned.”
One publication is also expected this year, a pictorial history of the Drury campus.
In an interview with News-Leader, Cloyd provided an update on the ongoing efforts and what’s planned for the coming year.
Fundraising campaign continues
In late October, with much fanfare, Drury completed the CH “Chub” O’Reilly Entrepreneurial Center and the Breech School of Business Administration and the Judy Thompson Center for Executive Conferences. It opens in January.
The project was the crown jewel in a successful multi-year fundraising campaign. Cloyd said: “We passed the $73 million mark.”
The second five-year phase of the campaign is beginning, but the university isn’t ready to reveal the goal, in part, because of how inflation can affect capital projects.
“There are many priorities, but number 1 is a new student life center,” he said. Others include student scholarships, academic programs, and “heritage buildings.”
Cloyd, halfway through his seventh year as president, said older structures on campus need to be renovated or updated and that includes addressing any deferred maintenance.
A gift is making it possible for Drury to renovate Claire Thompson Hall.
Freshman Class Keeps Growing
In August, Drury welcomed its largest freshman class in campus history. Cloyd said the institution plans to build on that momentum.
“A demographic shift is coming with the percentage of kids leaving high school declining, starting in 2026,” Cloyd said. “We want to have the right programs.”
The fall 2022 uptick came at a time when many higher education institutions, especially private campuses, are struggling with admissions.
“We are ahead of last year in applications, admissions and deposits,” he said.
Cloyd said a quick return to in-person instruction, with extensive testing, was critical to sustaining students through the pandemic, but the highly disruptive period came at a cost.
“We’re really working hard to help students overcome social anxiety to help them reconnect, because there’s so much longing and hunger to get back out there, but they’re not sure how to do it,” she said.
Offer Physician Assistant Program
The university is launching its first health-related master’s program, in physician assistant studies, this year. Plans for it were announced in 2021.
Physician assistants, or PAs, diagnose illnesses, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and may serve as the patient’s primary health care provider.
Drury has long offered undergraduate health programs, and graduates often apply to medical school.
The 27-month program will include a 12-month phase of classroom and laboratory instruction in medical sciences, clinical medicine, and research. During the clinical phase, students have supervised rotations in hospitals, clinics, and other medical settings.
Plus:Drury will offer scholarships to cover the cost of dual credit courses
Create engineering program.
Cloyd said the demand for majors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, has been growing on campus. The engineering program will be new.
The university plans to spend 2023 hiring a director for the engineering program and developing the curriculum so it can start in 2024.
“We are creating our own program,” he said.
Explore Graduate Healthcare Programs
Drury is exploring a variety of programs that can help meet the needs of the region’s workforce.
“We have approval to go ahead with a social work program,” Cloyd said, noting that the institution is still finalizing when it will start. “We’re going to focus on addiction and medical social work because we have a shortage of therapists, particularly in addiction, in this region of the country.”
Open the campus facilities to the community, beyond
The university has Annah Crow as executive director of event operations, a new position, to oversee bookings at various venues on campus. The effort will be called “On Drury Lane.”
Cloyd said Crow will market the spaces on campus, including access to the new Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center.
“We have a goal of really engaging the community to come to Drury and enjoy the spaces that we enjoy every day,” Cloyd said. “There are plenty of opportunities here for whatever, whether it’s a conference, a wedding or a reunion.”
Increase diversity, equity and inclusion
Cloyd said that under the leadership of Rosalyn Thomas, associate dean for diversity and inclusion, the university will host “Courageous Conversations” on campus this year.
He said that after a benchmark evaluation, the university decided to intensify its efforts to better prepare its students to work and succeed in a global marketplace.
Faculty and staff are expected to engage in conversations about tough topics and “be really honest with each other” in a civil way, Cloyd said.
“Drury is poised to be a space where you feel comfortable and safe to ask and answer tough questions and have courageous conversations because of the emphasis on kindness, integrity and treating people with dignity and decency,” he said. “That means not yelling at people or insulting people or blacklisting people or canceling people.”
Revitalize Benton Avenue AME Church
The university’s master plan calls for preserving and reusing the historic African Methodist Episcopal, or AME, church on Benton Avenue.
Drury acquired the historic church at Benton Avenue and Central Street, as well as the adjacent property. Plans for that space have been developed.
The plan is expected to be unveiled in 2023.
Cloyd said the university has worked with the black community and neighbors to conceptualize what will happen in that building.
A cornerstone will be laid in the spring marking the centenary of the church. The aim is to renovate the church and use it, among other things, for exhibitions.
Cloyd said the space will reflect the area’s Civil Rights history and celebrate prominent black leaders.
The historic building will likely be home to a new program the university wants to launch in museum studies, public history, conservation and preservation.
Claudette Riley covers education for News-Leader. Email suggestions and story ideas to email@example.com.