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RESIDENTIAL WORK: Drury University’s Marie Muhvic points out ongoing maintenance work at Smith Hall, a residential dormitory targeted for additional renovation as part of the school’s campus master plan.
Tawnie Wilson | SBJ
RESIDENTIAL WORK: Drury University’s Marie Muhvic points out ongoing maintenance work at Smith Hall, a residential dormitory targeted for additional renovation as part of the school’s campus master plan.

Master plan meets goals, expectations, Drury officials say

Campus work continues amid newly announced $50M capital campaign

Posted online

The opening late last year of a $27 million academic building on the campus of Drury University concluded the first phase of the school’s 25-year campus master plan – an initiative, unveiled in 2017, that officials say is meeting goals and expectations.

Mark Walker, chair of Drury’s Master Planning Committee as well as a Board of Trustees member, said the school’s unveiling of the C.H. “Chub” O’Reilly Enterprise Center, Breech School of Business Administration and Judy Thompson Executive Conference Center was the first major investment for the master plan. The 67,348-square-foot facility opened for classes in January.

The first physical activity began in 2019 for the long-range plan with officials noting the goal was better defining the university’s borders and visibility, while bringing residential life and academics back to the center of campus. The O’Reilly Enterprise Center fit right in with that goal, Walker said. The project was funded entirely by private donations during Drury’s Go Beyond capital campaign, which raised $73 million, a record fundraising effort for the university, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

“We didn’t envision a pandemic when we started. But we were able to move through with the Enterprise Center the way we wanted,” he said. “The fundraising is absolutely exceeding expectations. That is keeping us on a momentum that is very reassuring for a 25-year master plan.”

Even though Drury’s record-breaking capital campaign just concluded in 2021, another one began the next year, said Marie Muhvic, executive vice president for university advancement. The silent phase of the new $50 million campaign, dubbed Fortify the Future, lasted just a year before the university publicly launched it earlier this month. Nearly half of the targeted goal has been raised, she said.

“Usually, campaigns have a quiet phase of two or three years. You don’t typically go public until 40%-50% of the money is raised,” Muhvic said, noting the roughly $24 million was raised quickly. “Like with anything in philanthropy, 10% of your population gives 90% of your money. So, you have to get in with stakeholders, your loyal folks.”

Much like the Go Beyond campaign, Walker said Fortify the Future is connected to the master plan.

“It all ties into the long-term vision we have for the campus and the university,” he said, adding the campaign fundraising goal deadline is set for May 31, 2027.

Finding motivation
A key motivator in timing for the new campaign is the university’s 150th anniversary this year, Muhvic said.

“We’re hoping it will inspire people who never have given back to step up and do something for the anniversary and participate in some way,” she said, noting the anniversary also provides Drury the opportunity to have visible signage promoting the campaign. 

According to officials, planned use of the $50 million in funding is:

  • $20 million toward student scholarships and academic programs.
  • $18.4 million for building upgrades, such as Stone Chapel, Clara Thompson Hall, Smith Hall and Weiser Gymnasium.
  • $10 million toward the endowment for long-term financial security.
  • $1.6 million for a catalyst fund to support campaign efforts.

Part of the funds for academic programs is going toward the school’s launch of its new physician assistant studies program, which begins classes this fall. The school invested roughly $2 million to start its first health-related master’s degree program, according to past reporting.

“In the coming year, we’re hoping to raise funds to invest in the engineering program,” Muhvic said of the school’s desire to start course work in mechanical and electrical engineering.

Current and future investment in upkeep and renovation projects for longtime buildings such as student dormitory Smith Hall, built in 1966, is another priority of the master plan and capital campaign, according to officials. Walker said Smith Hall is currently undergoing plumbing and HVAC work. 

“We’re trying to make those spaces comfortable for them, safe for them and places they want to be,” Muhvic said.

She said reaching the endowment goal would put the total near $100 million. It’s currently 25% toward the $10 million target, according to the university website.

“People always think of endowments as necessary, which they are, in tough times,” she said. “But they’re necessary in good times, too, because they allow you to be proactive and start things as needed.”

As part of funds raised for the school’s catalyst fund, which Muhvic said serves as seed money for the campaign, Drury is looking to eventually hire three full-time fundraising positions. She said two will serve regionally, while a third – a leadership annual giving officer – will be responsible for increasing gifts ranging from $250 to $4,999, as well as boosting annual giving from local corporations. The major gift fundraising position is in the hiring process, while the other two will be added as funding becomes available, she added.

Being flexible
While working in conjunction with the capital campaign, the master plan acts as a blueprint that has malleability, Walker said, adding changes in priorities and projects are always a possibility. A new student life center was originally seen as a Phase I project in 2018, according to past reporting. While the center is still in the plan, Walker said the timeline for that project as well as ending car traffic on Drury Lane just north of Central Street, making most of the campus center a pedestrian promenade, remains undetermined.

“They can have some flex in them,” he said of a campus master plan. “You do that based on what the student population looks like, what the economy looks like, etc.”

Similarly, the extension of Drury’s campus at the corner of Benton Avenue and Chestnut Expressway remains a goal, Walker said. The university acquired property at the corner in 2018 and subsequently razed a cluster of businesses there the following year.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions about what-ifs. There are several things that are probably in play,” he said, noting an expansion of health sciences from the adjacent Trustee Science Center – one suggestion made several years ago – remains a possibility.

“We’re keeping it in as pristine of shape as we can until we come up with just the perfect thing. That’s such an important corner for our university,” he said. “It’ll be in keeping with the master plan theme that we launched with the Enterprise Center. We’re going to give it a little more time.”

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