Drury University’s president says collective courage in action and in faith among its faculty, staff and students will play a central role in the school’s success.
The message Wednesday came at the inauguration of Dr. Tim Cloyd, who took over as the school’s top administrator 16 months ago. Speaking inside Stone Chapel amongst university officials dressed in full regalia, Cloyd described Drury’s quest to continue its traditional teaching methods while adapting to social change and demand.
“The idea of ‘virtue ampersand virtuosity’ means that we teach our students that there are better and worse ways to live a life. And to cultivate individual character grounded in sound notions of virtue,” said Cloyd.
"Virtue & Virtuosity" has become a phrase at Drury and served as the theme of Cloyd’s speech. He said the practice instills in students a commitment to justice, decency, human dignity, integrity and mercy.
“In this process – this distinctive Drury way – we challenge students to resist some things that are pervasive in higher education today across campus, such as simplistic forms of subjectivism and relativism. Because that posture becomes paralyzing in the face of the reality that there are some principles and values worthy of defense,” he said.
He adds that in order for students to succeed they need to develop virtuosity. But Cloyd notes that because technology and desired skills are constantly changing Drury takes a “larger aim” in its teachings.
“An exposure to the STEAM and applied fields and pragmatic problem solving is critical, but it is the learning how to learn that’s really, really important.”
In the future, he adds, students will “need to be able to penetrate beyond the apparent or the likely.” The most difficult or important problems will not be technical or scientific, he says, but moral and ethical ones.
“The ability to communicate clearly and effectively on any platform about complex matters will be critical,” said Cloyd. “Being able to see through daily distortions, propaganda, emotional appeals and yes, even fake news, will be a basic requirement for any free citizen.”
He spoke of the need for students to think critically and analytically, to evaluate arguments and sources of information. Cloyd says he wants Drury to be a place that holds sacred the free expression of diverse ideas, even viewpoints perceived as challenging, unwelcoming or offensive.
Prior to his speech Wednesday, Cloyd was presented the presidential medallion by Drury Board of Trustee Chairman Lyle Reed. Also offering words of encouragement for the school was Dr. Holden Thorp, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for St. Louis-based Washington University.
Drury is an independent university, church related and grounded in the liberal arts tradition. Cloyd leaned on that faith message Wednesday as a cure for the bitter conflicts facing the nation.
“In the midst of this we wanna help our students to find their way through by grasping at spiritual meaning that I believe is the only way we can heal this divide. Through gifts such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, humility and gentleness.”
Cloyd says the framework of the university plays into these philosophies, but it’s up to the leaders of today on what to place into that frame.
Founded 144 years ago, Cloyd described how it was the only woman on a 7-member committee that helped locate Drury in Springfield at a time of high demand for educators. Her vote only counted for half, he said, whereas the men got a full vote. But it came into play when the six men became deadlocked on where to establish the school.
“The woman on the committee, Mrs. Allen, being the reasonable and thoughtful one, broke the tie by casting her one-half vote, and thus decided that Drury College would be located here in Springfield.”
Through the years, Drury’s campus became inscribed in national, state and local history. Some features, including the once brick streetscapes surrounding the school, have since been covered up. But Cloyd says it’s the university’s goal to revive some historical elements within its new master plan.
“The next days and weeks you will hear about and see how our new master plan and vision’s doing honor to our history and Springfield’s history. And we hope students you will be involved in helping to define that landscape and streetscape, and the historic Linear Park that we plan to place there.”
The current master planning process and other notables, including an enrollment increase this fall after years of enrollment decline or flat growth, has brought optimism. When he first arrived as president, Cloyd said the school was being asked to do “more and more with less and less.” Not anymore.
“The strain and then the downward spiral can come when external forces go encountered for too long. We are now countering those external forces,” said Cloyd.
He also touched on the importance of strategic investment to sustain the school’s upward trajectory, including its endowment, Future’s Fund, and other generous philanthropic support. The actions of today, Cloyd said, will leave a lasting impact on the future.
“We have drunk, all of us, from cisterns we did not dig, we have all taken shade under trees we did not plant, and rest assured that future generations will have the same experience of reflective gratitude that we do for the spiritual generosity of past generations. The same spiritual generosity that we are called on by God to impart.”
Follow Scott Harvey on Twitter: @scottksmu