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President Todd Parnell
President Todd Parnell

Kings Finalist: Drury University

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From a lone building on a single acre in 1873, private liberal arts school Drury University has grown to an 88-acre residential campus in Springfield and has more than 1,400 employees.

The university, which hit an enrollment record in fall 2010 with 5,625 students, also has campuses in Ava, Cabool, Fort Leonard Wood, Lebanon, Monett, Rolla and Thayer, with a Richwood Valley extension site, according to www.drury.edu.

The October 2010 opening of the $13.5 million O’Reilly Family Event Center marked the conclusion of a construction project that provided jobs for local architects, contractors and subcontractors.

Drury President Todd Parnell says the center will continue to bolster the local economy, serving as a regional venue for big-name entertainment acts as well as university sporting events and activities. Platinum-selling rock ‘n’ roll band Chicago is slated to play a concert Aug. 9 at the center.

“We’re going to generate a lot of economic activity out of it,” he says.  

The $3 million renovation of Wallace Hall on the Drury campus was another boost to the local economy during summer 2010.  The residence hall is home to approximately 130 co-ed students and features a new interior with designer flooring and leather lounge furniture.

Drury also boasts one of two accredited architecture schools in Missouri; nearly 600 students have graduated from its Hammons School of Architecture since it opened 25 years ago. Many of those graduates continue to live and work in the Ozarks.

“We’re keeping our best and brightest in the area,” Parnell says.

Through internship programs, Drury architecture students are involved in many community projects.

According to school data, Drury students have provided area communities with 114,000 hours of free planning work which would be worth millions in architecture fees.

Drury’s support for businesses and economic development, however, isn’t limited to the architecture sector.

Through its Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Drury helps train future entrepreneurs and works with the Springfield Angel Network to match startup businesses with accredited investors.

The Edward Jones Center also offers annual conferences that give potential entrepreneurs the opportunity to network with and learn from seasoned businesspeople and other entrepreneurs. The conferences – Minority Entrepreneurship Workshop, Ecopreneurship Conference, Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium and the Self-Employment in the Arts – touch on four distinct areas.

“Obviously, anything that comes out of (those) is going to have a positive impact on Springfield and the region,” Parnell says.

Now, the Jones center is working to increase Drury’s presence on Commercial Street, with plans in the works to rent classroom space in the area.

Parnell says sometimes people overlook the more human aspects of an institution’s economic impact, noting that Drury focuses on community involvement and outreach for its employees and its students.  

“Those contributions ripple out into waves that you can’t measure in dollars and cents but make our community a lot more viable and strong,” he says.

Parnell also points to the pride he feels when Drury graduates step into local leadership positions.

“I think that impact far exceeds the annual dollars that we put in the economy,” he says.

From the 2011 Economic Impact Awards publication
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