January 28, 2013
Even though we were both from Taney County, I didn’t know David Lewis until late in his life. The Rockaway Beach native came to Drury in the fall of 2008 to tour his alma mater and look at how much the campus had changed. David Lewis wasn’t just stopping by Drury to say “hi,” he had something important to tell me.
First, let me tell you a little about David Lewis. He was born in Rockaway Beach in 1933, and he grew up around the Taneycomo Hotel in Rockaway where his parents worked. They also ran a family farm. Neither of his parents graduated from high school, but when it came time to leave the one-room schoolhouse, his parents encouraged David to go to high school in Branson. He graduated, at age 16, and, taking a huge leap for his family, David enrolled in Drury College. On that day he visited me in 2008, David told me, “I went to school here for one thing. My mother and father worked. We didn’t have money; they worked very hard to send me to Drury College. That was the goal they set. It worked out. I’m most thankful that happened.”
David graduated in 1953, and made a life for himself, working at Sears for nearly 40 years. He worked hard and lived modestly and amassed substantial wealth.
With no heirs and facing a cancer diagnosis, David turned to his friend and attorney Jerry Redfern to create a legacy. The two talked and David decided to donate $1 million each to Drury, College of the Ozarks and Ozarks Technical Community College for scholarships for students from Taney County.
On that day in 2008, when David visited me, he was telling me about his $1 million estate gift to Drury, but he didn’t want anyone to talk about it publicly until after he passed.
David died on December 22, 2009, and his donations have already made an impact on Taney County students. For a man with no children, he showed a great deal of care for kids, many of whom have yet to be born but will have the opportunity to pursue higher education because of his gift.
At Drury, we’re asking students who receive scholarships from David’s gift to pay it forward. They will each take a day to volunteer at a charity in Taney County each school year.
David Lewis did not want thanks or fanfare for his generosity; all he wanted was for students from Taney County to benefit from higher education. On that day he visited me in 2008, David said, “It’s a shame when good students want to better their lives, but can’t due to financial things.” David’s legacy will live on for generations thanks to his generosity.
Story by Drury President Todd Parnell