Following the resignation of President Tim Cloyd announced March 23, an interim leader has started at the Drury University campus.
John Beuerlein, a retired financial analyst and philanthropist, began work March 27 in a role he said he expects to occupy well into 2024. A 1975 graduate of the university, Beuerlein is a nonvoting life trustee member at Drury after previously serving on its board of trustees 1991-2011.
While it appeared the resignation of Cloyd, who had served as president since 2016, was sudden, Board Chair Rita Baron said that wasn’t the case. She and the board first heard from Cloyd of ongoing family health concerns a few months ago. Those undisclosed medical issues ultimately led to his departure, she added.
“Dr. Cloyd graciously gave us advanced notice of his intention to resign as the president,” Baron said, adding his resignation letter was dated March 23. “It was a really hard decision toward the end to choose between Drury and his family. He was encouraged as family comes first and we all gave him that support to tend to his family.”
The board did not ask for Cloyd’s resignation, she said.
“He’s been with us for six years and has done an amazing job,” she said. “It was completely his decision.”
Cloyd didn’t return emails seeking comment by press time. However, he told the Springfield News-Leader shortly after his resignation that he was going on medical leave immediately and planned to take a year’s sabbatical.
Beuerlein agreed to fill the interim position a couple months ago, Baron said, adding the move gives the board time to find the next president. She noted Beuerlein is one of her mentors.
“It’s a huge ask,” Baron said, noting Beuerlein, who retired from Edward Jones four years ago, wasn’t expecting the offer. “I thought maybe he’s getting bored and needs something to do because he’s so passionate about Drury.”
Cloyd started as Drury’s leader in summer 2016. Prior to that, he worked 2001-14 as president of Conway, Arkansas-based Hendrix College.
His tenure at Drury was marked by the launch of a 25-year master plan, among other initiatives. The university late last year unveiled its $27 million C.H. “Chub” O’Reilly Enterprise Center and Breech School of Business Administration and Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center, a 67,348-square-foot facility where classes started early this year. The O’Reilly Enterprise Center is the first capital project as part of Drury’s master plan for campus improvements, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
Baron said the newest addition to the campus was funded entirely by private donations between 2016 and 2021 during the university’s Go Beyond campaign. It raised $73 million, the largest fundraising effort in Drury history, officials say.
Cloyd also oversaw the rollout in 2019 of a new curriculum model called Your Drury Fusion, designed to fuse academic and professional learning by bucking traditional single majors in favor of multidisciplinary certificates, according to past reporting.
The search for a new president to lead the university marking its 150th anniversary this year is yet to begin, Beuerlein said.
“We’re not going to get after that until after the school year runs its course, and we’ll start working on that in the summer,” he said, adding he expects the search could take eight to 10 months. “I’m looking at this as a year commitment. My job is to really focus in on the key priorities for the university and advance those. I’m not a caretaker; that’s not my nature. We’re going to advance the ball down the field and build on the good work that Dr. Cloyd started.”
Baron said Drury will hire a national search firm to lead the process, adding the university seeks candidates who are great communicators and educators that prioritize students above all else.
A new start
Beuerlein plans to split time in Springfield and the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, where he resides with his wife, Crystal, also a Drury alum.
“I’ll be traveling back and forth as I’ve got some things to unwind in St. Louis, commitments there that I can’t just walk away from,” he said, noting one of those is exiting his chair position on the board of trustees at Washington University. “But beginning July 1, I’ll be pretty well removing myself from those other commitments and I can devote full time to this very important challenge.”
Beuerlein said he wasn’t looking for a job when Drury came calling.
“I felt like my responsibility was to turn my focus in on nonprofit work in the greater St. Louis area and harass my four grandchildren as much as I possibly could,” he said. “Drury has always been a big soft spot in both Crystal’s and my heart. It’s quite an honor. To be thought of in this way is humbling. I bring to them about 42 years’ worth of experience in the business world and a lot of work with nonprofits.”
At Drury, Beuerlein served as the board of trustees chair 2006-10 and was inducted into the university’s Breech Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2011, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award and was elected an emeritus trustee. He also was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the university in 2013. In 2021, he and his wife received the Distinguished Spirit of Drury award.
In February, Cloyd penned an open letter indicating Drury was eyeing $4 million in cost reductions as the private liberal arts institution deals with “post-pandemic fallout.” The initiative, he said, would include fewer staff positions via employee attrition and unfilled vacancies, as well as the elimination of up to 10 positions. Baron, who said she was unaware of staff salary or pay reductions, added there were reductions in work time last year for some employees to account for a lack of activity in the summer months.
“As many higher education institutions in our area and around the country are experiencing post-pandemic fallout, Drury University is not immune,” Cloyd said in the letter. “In an abundance of caution, we are reevaluating the use of our resources and identifying ways in which we can be more efficient.”
Although Cloyd’s letter indicated the cost-saving measures would continue through May 2024, Beuerlein said that process is well under way and mostly complete.
Amid his first days on the job, Beuerlein said he’s still trying to bend his arms around all the revenue generating strategies that could be employed.
One way is to do a better job of communicating the value of a Drury education and take advantage of driving more recruitment of students to the university.
“I’m not interested in trimming the belt any more than we have to, but we can never totally lose sight of that,” he said.
Student recruitment at Drury was up for the 2022-23 school year, as officials noted total starting undergraduate enrollment for the fall semester at 1,386. That’s up from 1,345 in fall 2021. It was boosted by the largest freshman class in the school’s 149-year history at 413 students. The prior record was 406 set in 2010. The entering class total was 490, including transfer students.
Drury reported 396 faculty and staff in February. That number dropped this month to 384, according to SBJ list research published in this issue. The employee count at the university was 412 in April 2020, according to officials. Spring 2023 total enrollment, including graduate students, was 1,946, a 1.5% dip from spring 2022.
While Beuerlein said he hasn’t had much time to visit with faculty and staff to gauge morale, he acknowledged “change is always unsettling.” He said people on campus and in the community want to know more about the new leader.
“I’m a collaborative guy. I’m not an autocrat, and I don’t make decisions in a vacuum,” he said, adding there’s no reason for those on campus to think he’s walking in with all the answers. “The way it’ll play out is we’ll figure it out together.”
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