Professor’s photos capture small town “relics” & celebrations

Greg Booker has a keen eye for out-of-the-way places.

The assistant professor of art and communication at Drury has for several years now been photographing and documenting everyday scenes in small – sometimes very small – towns in Missouri, Oklahoma and some southern states.

A barbershop scene in Clinton, Missouri.

A barbershop scene in Clinton, Missouri.

An exhibit of Booker’s work, titled “Small Town & Quiet Spaces” is now open at the Lightwell Gallery at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Art and Art History. The exhibit will come to Drury’s Pool Art Center this fall.

It’s a passion project that began when Booker returned to Springfield to join Drury’s faculty in 2009. Born in Chicago and raised in St. Louis, Booker earned an art degree from Drury in 1987 before moving to Oklahoma, where he earned a graduate degree in art at OU. He later landed on the photo staff of the Kansas City Star.

An abandoned storefront in Niangua, Missouri.

An abandoned storefront in Niangua, Missouri.

When he and his wife returned to the area, they bought a home outside of Marshfield. That was the first time Booker had lived in the country.

“I’m used to city life,” he says, and the change of scenery brought small and sometimes even forgotten places into focus for him. With camera in hand, he began seeking out the kind of tiny towns that are today little more than places on a map because highways passed them by or because they were simply too small to survive.

“They’re almost like relics,” Booker says. “It just seems like that was a bit of history that needed to be documented, so it was a chance for me to explore the small towns and document them.”

A four-way stop in the heart of Houston, Missouri.

A four-way stop in the heart of Houston, Missouri.

Booker later began shooting the larger but still small towns where people live, work and play. He’s captured celebrations like parades and fall festivals and everyday moments in local shops and sidewalks – the “places where the community can come together and celebrate their heritage, their small towns and their neighbors,” he says.

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Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations.

Drury accounting students provide free income tax preparation assistance

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 22, 2015 — Drury University students will again provide free tax preparation through an IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site. The tax preparation service is open to the public and is designed to benefit low-income and senior taxpayers.

The Drury tax service accepts walk-in clients on all dates and appointments on most dates. To make an appointment, please call (417) 720-2000. This line often experiences high volumes of calls. Anyone having difficulty getting through is advised to keep trying. Please note that no other telephone number is able to accept appointments for Drury. Drury attempts to accommodate as many clients as possible on any given day. Due to the high demand for services, we may be unable to fill all requests for service on a specific date.

Taxpayers are required to bring photo ID, Social Security cards of themselves and dependents, as well as any tax documentation which they have received, including all W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and statements issued by brokerage firms. Clients are also asked to bring a copy of their 2013 state and federal tax returns to help speed up the filing process. The Drury VITA site is located in the Breech School of Business Administration at the corner of Central Street and Drury Lane.

Due to limitations set by the federal government, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs are unable to help taxpayers who have declared bankruptcy or incurred insolvency during the tax year, have rental property, have a self-owned business with inventory, depreciable property, or which had an overall loss for the year, and certain situations in which a taxpayer has received a forgiveness of debt.

The VITA clinics are held at the Breech School of Business Administration building, on the northeast corner of Central Street and Drury Lane. The clinics will be held at the following dates and times:

Saturday, Feb. 7 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 9 – 4 to 8 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 12 – 4 to 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 14 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 16 – 4 to 8 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 21 – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 23 – 4 to 8 p.m.

All returns will be filed electronically unless the IRS requires a manual return. All taxpayers must be available to sign the appropriate forms in the case of joint returns.

For more information, please call (417) 873-7522 or send an email to tax@drury.edu.

VIDEO: 2014 VITA tax preparation clinic

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Drury improves ranking on Kiplinger’s list of 100 best value private colleges

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 20, 2015 — Kiplinger’s Personal Finance has included Drury University on its list of the country’s best values in private universities. Kiplinger’s annual list ranks 100 private universities and 100 liberal arts colleges. This is the second year in a row Drury has made the list. It was ranked 41st among private universities, up from 70th last year.

The complete rankings are available online at kiplinger.com/links/college and in the February 2015 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, on newsstands now.

Kiplinger’s assesses quality according to measurable standards such as admission rate, percentage of students who return for sophomore year, student-faculty ratio and four-year graduation rate. Cost criteria include sticker prices, financial aid and average debt at graduation. Drury’s average student debt upon graduation is lower than the statewide average for students in Missouri.

This is the latest national recognition of the outstanding educational value Drury provides for students and families. U.S. News & World Report named Drury as the No. 1 best value college in the Midwest in its 2015 rankings last fall.

“We salute this year’s top schools,” says Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. “Balancing top-quality education with affordable cost is a challenge for families in today’s economy, which is why Kiplinger’s rankings are such a valuable resource. The schools on the 2015 list offer students the best of both worlds.”

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Drury students to take part in MLK Day of Service at the Missouri Hotel

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 16, 2014 — A group of Drury University students will take part in the national Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Monday.

About 10 Drury students will work on needed maintenance projects at the Missouri Hotel from 1 to 4 p.m. on Monday. The Missouri Hotel is a program of The Kitchen, Inc.

The MLK Day of Service began in the 1990s as a way of challenging citizens to use the holiday as way to help others and honor the legacy of Dr. King.  In 2014, volunteers in all 50 states helped make a difference in the lives others in some way on MLK Day.

Service and community engagement are key elements of Drury University’s culture. In 2013, Drury students provided more than 139,000 service hours to people and organizations in Springfield and throughout the Ozarks.

Media Contact: Hannah Minchow-Proffitt, Community Outreach and Leadership Development. Office: (417) 873-6803; Email: hminchow-proffitt@drury.edu

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Memphis trip brings classroom lessons to life for freshmen

Nearly 30 Drury University freshmen had the chance to travel to Memphis to spend a weekend visiting the National Civil Rights Museum and the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum as part of their first-year experience

The trip was tied to Drury’s general education curriculum, called Drury CORE. CORE classes are designed for incoming students and emphasize the interconnectedness of all areas of study.

Experiences like the Memphis trip help form bonds that carry students through the transition into college life. Those bonds are also formed though “Living Learning Communities” – students with common interests and areas of study who are grouped together in residence halls.

Drury freshmen at the Lorriane Motel, now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.

Drury freshmen at the Lorraine Motel, now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.

“It’s a really comfortable environment – it’s really easy to open up,” says Jacob Wyatt, one the students who was on the Memphis trip. “No one is afraid to say how they feel and we have a lot of good classroom discussions.”

Two CORE classes joined together for the Memphis trip: Dr. Charles Taylor’s class, themed “The Politics of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and Dr. Rick Maxon’s class, themed “On Propaganda and Protest.” The museum trips helped bring to life some of the topics explored in the classroom throughout the semester.

At the Civil Rights Museum, students in the “Propaganda and Protest” class analyzed the variety of methods of protest seen during the Civil Rights movement in America. The “Politics of Rock n’ Roll” students gained a greater understanding of African-American influence on rock music and, in turn, society at large. In the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum[cq], students learned more about rock music as a powerful medium for social change.

Through these activities, the students not only learned about their chosen topics, but were exposed to a much broader perspective on just how powerful these cultural change agents have been over the years.

While learning is the primary purpose, the trips certainly build connections and lasting memories for the students. Taylor says trips such as this “provide another forum in which students can get connected to each other and the university.”

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Story by Trevor Cobb, writing major at Drury. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Steve Miller Band to perform live at O’Reilly Family Event Center May 29

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 12, 2015 — Iconic classic rock group the Steve Miller Band will appear live in concert at the O’Reilly Family Event Center on Friday, May 29, 2015.

Tickets start at $59 and go on sale starting at 10 a.m., Friday, Jan. 16 at www.drurytickets.com or by calling (417) 873-6389. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the OFEC box office, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

SMB logo

The Steve Miller Band is one of the top-selling acts of the classic rock era and created some of rock’s most enduring anthems, including “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Space Cowboy,” “Take the Money and Run” and “Jet Airliner.” The group’s mid-70s greatest hits album remains a best seller today as its signature sound continues to win new generations of fans.

An opening act will be announced at a later date. For more information about the Steve Miller Band, visit: http://www.stevemillerband.com.

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Drury Recognizes Staff Members for Years of Service, Dedication

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Jan. 9, 2015 — Drury University recently recognized 23 staff members for milestone service anniversaries and dedication to the university. In addition, the annual Distinguished Staff Service Award was given to Cindy Jones, Registrar. Faculty members are recognized for service anniversaries in the spring, at the end of each academic year.

10 Years

Ed Derr – Director of Counseling, Disability Services and Testing

Barbi Dickensheet – Circulation Services Manager, Olin Library

Steve Hesser – Head Men’s Basketball Coach

Steve Hynds – Director of Online Education

Donna King – Office Coordinator, College of Continuing Professional Studies – St. Robert

Sarah Jones – Senior Designer

Tammy Nilsen – Executive Office Assistant, Student Affairs

LeeRoy Rogers – Lead Custodian

Diana Serafimov – Interface and Security Software Analyst

Teresa Skidmore – Director of Donor Research & Information Systems

Don Trogdon – Custodian

Kris Wasson – General Maintenance Technician

15 Years

Hal Boyer – Lead Custodian

Bob Gardner – Manager, Carbon Copy

Charles Obradovich – Custodian

Robert Wallace – Custodian

Elizabeth Ussery – General Accountant

25 Years

Sherry Beasley – Perkins Loan/Collection Coordinator

Mary Iarussi – Site Director, College of Continuing Professional Studies – Rolla

Jean Stone – Receptionist

30 Years

Annette Enloe – Associate Registrar/Registration Technology Manager

Doris Weber – Executive Office Assistant, Development & Alumni Relations

40 Years

Dan Cashel ­– Director of Student-Athlete Enhancement

2014 Distinguished Staff Award – Cindy Jones, Registrar

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Disney internship is “dream come true” for architecture student

Dreams do come true, as fifth-year architecture student Billy Miller proved after completing two internships at “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Miller interned with Disney Imagineering in 2010 and again in 2013.

“I’ve wanted to work for Disney since I was 7 years old,” Miller says.

Disney’s “Imagineers” are responsible for designing and building theme parks, resorts, and other entertainment venues. More than 140 different job titles fall under the banner of Imagineering, according to Disney, including illustrators, architects, engineers, writers, graphic designers and more.

Billy Miller

Drury architecture student Billy Miller

Miller worked with other Imagineers on a variety of projects such as Splash Mountain, as well as buildings, lighting and even animal pens. He also took on a key role on the team designing Disney Springs, a transformation of what is now Downtown Disney inside Walt Disney World into a space modeled after a classic Florida lakeside town.

The experience taught him the importance of collaboration with other disciplines both in and outside of the architectural field and about how to use architecture to tell a story. But he also took a great deal of knowledge with him into the job.

“Drury and the Hammons School of Architecture not only helped foster my design style, but gave me the confidence and knowledge that allowed me to become a leader at Disney,” he says. Miller cites mentors such as professor Jay Garrott and instructor Jeff Barber as specific influences at the beginning of his architectural career.

“I honestly did not realize the breadth of what I had learned until I got down to Disney and saw how many jobs I was able to accomplish that other interns could not,” he says.

Managers within the company gave interns the latitude to lead projects if they showed promise, Miller says. He adds that he was able to take hold of such an opportunity after only three weeks working under another architect.

But the biggest opportunity was simply a chance “to make people happy.”

“There is honestly nothing like seeing someone smile because of something you worked on,” Miller says

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Story by Trevor Cobb, writing major at Drury.

Students study future of genetics by examining their own past

DNA tells a story – a story about one’s past and, potentially, about one’s future.

A group of Drury science students learned more about their own genetic past this semester, and in the process learned important lessons about the future of medicine.

Twenty-four students in Dr. Roger Young’s advanced molecular genetics class took samples of their own spit before the class began and sent it to a company called 23andMe, which provides ancestry-related genetic reports for a fee. These reports, called genotypes, can help people generally understand their ancestry and also identify certain traits and health risks.

Just a few years ago, this testing was highly expensive, Young says. Today it can be done “for less than 100 bucks, which is incredible,” he says. That cost trajectory means genetic profiles will soon be an essential – and common – part of the medical industry.

“It seemed like a natural step forward to take this kind of modern business model and apply it to an academic setting,” Young says.

The students learned they each carry some Neanderthal DNA. They learned they might be pre-disposed to certain health conditions or be carriers for diseases that could manifest themselves in their children, if their partners are also carriers. The results largely remained private amongst the students, but it forced them to think about what they’ll do with the information.

“There’s the raw interpretation of the data, then there’s the philosophy and ethical implications of what you do with that information,” Young says.

In Drury’s typical liberal arts fashion, connections were drawn to other disciplines. Philosophy professor Dr. Chris Panza and a genetic counselor from CoxHealth spoke to the class about philosophical and ethical impacts. And the students even entered – and won – a photo contest with 23andMe. Titled “Human Karyotype,” the photo was of 23 of the students lying on the ground representing both the number and the shape of the 23 human chromosomes.

“Human Karyotype," by Drury student Ashleigh Spalding. The photo depicts Spalding's 23 classmates posing as human chromosomes.

“Human Karyotype,” by Drury student Ashleigh Spalding.

The students used a $300 prize from the contest to hold an event on campus and spoke to about 100 people about the process of genetic testing, condensing their 15-week journey into about a 15-minute presentation.

“A fair number of these students are going into the medical field on some level, and because genetics will be ubiquitous in a decade or less, these students will be prepared to understand this, and teach other people about it,” Young says. “When they sit for their MCATs or medical school interviews, they’ll be able to talk on a knowledgeable level about the future of medicine.”

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Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations. 

Westenberg back in Broadway spotlight during “Into the Woods” reunion

Long before he became the Artistic Director of Drury University’s theater programs, Robert Westenberg could boast of a successful career on Broadway, television and film. Today he’s found a new love directing and mentoring students, but he was recently pulled back into the Broadway spotlight in an unusual way – for the reunion of the classic Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine musical “Into the Woods.” Coincidentally, a film version of “Into the Woods” starring Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep and others opens in theaters nationwide this month.

The Tony Award-winning show is a mash-up of classic Grimm’s fairy tales, interwoven with a plot about a baker and his wife as they wish to have a child. Having previously worked with Sondheim and Lapine in their production of “Sunday in the Park with George,” Westenberg was brought on as an original cast member of “Into the Woods” when it debuted on Broadway in 1987. He had dual roles as both the Wolf and Prince Charming. Other notable cast members included Bernadette Peters as the Witch, Joanna Gleason as the Baker’s Wife and Springfield native Kim Crosby as Cinderella. (In their own version of “happily ever after,” Crosby and Westenberg first met while working on the show and eventually married.)

Original Broadway cast members of "Into the Woods," including Robert Westenberg at left.

Original Broadway cast members of “Into the Woods,” including Robert Westenberg at left.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the show’s final performance, the cast reunited for one night on stage at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in southern California last month. Humorist Mo Rocca moderated interviews with the creators and cast, who performed selected songs and scenes. A second show was added due to demand and the audience included at least a few fans were stars in their own right, including no less than Barbra Streisand. Besides several glowing reviews from the LA Times, Wall Street Journal and others, the raucous reaction from a packed house took everyone involved by surprise – proving that the musical’s cult following remains as strong as ever.

We spoke to Westenberg shortly afterward about the musical, the reunion and the performance.

 

Q: How was the reunion? What was it like to reconnect with these greats?

Fantastic. I did that show for two years, and I had not seen some of those people for almost the full 25 years since we closed. And it was exactly the same as when we left off – it was as comfortable as you’d be with your family. We know each other like you’d know a brother or sister. We worked for years together day after day after day. It was just a wonderful mix of mutual respect. So the reunion aspect was spectacular.

Q: What about the performance aspect of it all? I know there was no small amount of preparation involved…

It was fun. Rehearsing it was fun. Stressful, but fun. We had two shows. The first show had a certain magic to it for us in the cast. It was extraordinarily scary because we didn’t know how it was going to be received. Mo Rocca was someone we’d just met. He’s incredibly good. Very genial, and does his homework. He’s also quick on his feet – he was just feeding off of everyone.

As we began there was a blackout, and you heard the iconic voice of the narrator from the album, say “Once Upon a Time…” And the audience – it was an explosion that was hard to describe – 3,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs. We thought ‘Oh my God.’ We were rock stars for that moment in time. I thought, ‘You know what, I know I’m not a rock star, but I’m going to eat this up. I’m going to enjoy this.’

The performance itself was stressful for me because I had a cold in the weeks before. So I was nervous as hell, but when the number was over it was like I’d found the cure for cancer. It was insanity. I’m just a Joe Blow who mows his lawn every week and comes to work. I don’t perceive myself in that way in any way shape or form. Then to have people perceive you that way is bizarre. It’s fun and unrealistic, but a kick in the pants.

Westenberg sings and acts with Joanna Gleason, who played the Baker's Wife, during the reunion.

Westenberg sings and acts with Joanna Gleason, who played the Baker’s Wife, during the reunion.

Q: Why do you think “Into the Woods” has had such enduring appeal?

Jim and Steve talked about that during the reunion. They were pleased at its strength and longevity and the fact that it’s one of the most-produced shows in high schools across the country. It’s large enough to be able to contain a variety of different viewpoints. If you ask one particular person what “What Into the Woods” is, their interpretation could be wildly different than somebody else’s.

Q: Stephen Sondheim is a Broadway legend. What is it about his style and his body of work that people have connected with over the years?

I find him utterly compelling. He loves plot-driven, situational writing. Actors love to do Sondheim because his characters are almost always solving a problem, and that’s actable. There’s an action connected to it. As Bernadette put in it at the reunion, with Steve, you just have to go where he takes you and go there fully. He will lead you, ultimately, where the character is supposed to go. One of his main thematic motifs is that he always works from the specific. He believes the universal can only be achieved when you’re coming from the specific because that’s what people recognize. It’s in the details that people see themselves.

Q: What was the biggest surprise for you in all of this?

I’ve worked with Sondheim a long time over a number of years. I love Steve and, man, do I respect him. He’s a bona fide genius, and true artist and a true professional. But he is not warm and fuzzy. But there was a different Steve there. There was a humanity to him that was abundant. A softening. There was a moment at the end of the second show when Mo asked what this has meant. (Sondheim) said, ‘It’s upsetting – I don’t want it to ever end.’ There were three of us who put our hands on his shoulders, and his head went down. It was powerful.

Cast members listen as legendary composer Stephen Sondheim speaks during a panel discussion.

Cast members listen as legendary composer Stephen Sondheim speaks during a panel discussion.

Q: How do experiences like this and your prior career help bring the study of theater to life for your students?

My job is to create a truly pre-professional atmosphere here, fully integrated with the liberal arts and fully cross-pollinated with all the other disciplines. But at the same time we are deeply focused on making sure the skills and the craft and the opportunities that are provided here are something that will translate into the real world. What I’ve done is basically cherry picked from my 30-plus years of experience and training to deliver what I think are real world applications. These are things that are doable, that are not so esoteric or so limited to the privileged few who have the talent. It’s a blue-collar approach to acting.

Q: Does that point get driven home a bit more when you’re whisked away for an event like this reunion?

Hopefully it gives me a little more street cred and gives a little more weight to what I say, but also I hope it gives students a role model in terms of what’s achievable. It’s not some pie in the sky level of stardom. It’s not about stardom. It’s about work. It’s about technique. It’s about this whole class of working actors who live in New York or elsewhere and are in show after show and make a living at it.

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Interview by Mike Brothers, Director of Media Relations. All photos by Doug Gifford, courtesy of the Segerstrom Center.