Recent Drury grad completes White House internship

From Drury to Washington, D.C., Austin Seaborn is proving that with perseverance, the right attitude, and hard work, anything is possible. Seaborn, a 2013 graduate with a bachelor’s in German and International Political studies, has spent the last year pursuing a Master’s degree at Georgetown University while also interning at the White House, continuing the legacy of leadership that he left at Drury.

Georgetown has top-ranked programs in international affairs, and only about 20 people were accepted into Seaborn’s program at the BMW Center for German and European Studies.

“I knew it was competitive so I beefed up other areas of my resume — I had great internships, a lot of leadership positions and experiences, and studied abroad while I was at Drury,” Seaborn said. “One of my professors, Dr. John Taylor, got his Master’s and Ph.D. (at Georgetown), too, and he gave me a lot of encouragement.”


During his first semester in grad school, Seaborn applied to be an intern at the White House and found out this past December that he would be working in the Office of Legislative Affairs — the President’s liaison to Congress.

From January to May, he worked 50 hours a week and was a full-time student. He met and escorted members of Congress to events and meetings at the White House, monitored the Senate floor and counted votes, and helped manage and track correspondence from members of Congress to the President and other senior officials.

During his internship, Seaborn spoke with the President, First Lady, Vice President, and Chief of Staff. He even got the chance to play with the President’s two dogs, Sunny and Bo.

“I most enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside some of America’s best and brightest. Both the staff and my fellow interns are brilliant, hardworking people who wake up every morning and come to work hoping to make a positive impact on people’s lives,” Seaborn said. “It was great getting to meet so many members of Congress, and see what goes in to making a meeting or event happen at the White House was unforgettable.”

Seaborn’s internship and experiences reaffirmed his commitment to public service. He is excited at the possibility of starting a career that raises discussion about important issues and helps positively affect the people around him.

“I hope to use the skills I have learned and the experiences I have been so fortunate to have to help others who are going through a tough time and to inspire people to set lofty goals, work efficiently, be flexible to different opportunities, and to give back to people in need,” Seaborn said.

This summer, Seaborn will be working at the Georgetown Law Center and will start his last year of graduate school in the fall.


Story by Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, and English and writing major at Drury. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Studying abroad helps architecture grad gain global perspective

Not many 23-year-olds can say they’ve travelled the world, have a master’s degree and had multiple internships during their college career. Wil Toedtmann can. He graduated Drury this month with a degree in architecture and a minor in Design Arts and Global Studies.

The Hermann, Missouri, native became interested in architecture in high school when he would sketch buildings on his notes during class. He came to Drury for the five-year Master of Architecture program.

During those years, Toedtmann counts his travel abroad opportunities as some of his biggest learning experiences. In total, he visited seven countries, including China, Italy, Spain, Greece and the United Kingdom.


“Studying abroad was such a life changing experience and I not only learned about other cultures, but I also learned a lot about myself and what my values were,” Toedtmann says. “It really changed my whole perspective on life. I think traveling is one of the best ways to learn and it really gives you a global perspective.”

This past spring break, Toedtmann and two other Drury students traveled to China to present their fifth year urban design projects to the Suzhou Industrial Park Design & Research Institute. The projects focused on the anticipated future growth of an area west of Shanghai, and looked at redevelopment strategies addressing issues of sustainability, culture and population density.

“One of professors was actually born in Beijing, which made the trip even better because it was like having a personal tour guide,” Toedtmann says. “I was really glad he came with us because he showed us authentic Chinese cuisine, which was great!”

Aside from his study abroad travels, Toedtmann also appreciates the networking opportunities Drury has provided him. Because of a Drury connection, Toedtmann was able to spend a week in New York City working with Daniel Libeskind, one of the world’s most well-known architects. Another Drury connection helped him secure a part-time job at Casey Architecture, where he works today. He hopes to move to a large city in the future.

“I honestly feel like Drury couldn’t have done any more to better prepare me for the field of architecture,” Toedtmann says. “I am not only grateful for the degree and education I received, but more importantly, I am grateful for all the relationships that were created through my experiences and the opportunities that molded me into the person I am today.”


Story by Kaleigh Jurgensmeyer, an English and Writing major at Drury. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Academically gifted students from across Missouri to be honored Friday

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 21, 2014 — The Drury Center for Gifted Education, in partnership with the Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP), will honor more than 350 of Missouri’s most promising young scholars at a recognition ceremony at 11 a.m., Friday, May 23 in the O’Reilly Family Event Center. Dr. Kris Wiley, assistant professor of education at Drury, will be the keynote speaker.

To qualify for recognition, seventh-grade honorees must take the ACT or SAT and score at a level equal to or better than 50 percent of the high school juniors and seniors who took the test.

Duke TIP, a nonprofit organization, has conducted an annual search for academically talented youth in the state of Missouri as well as 15 other states since its founding in 1980. Drury University has hosted the annual statewide recognition event since 1981. Representatives from Drury, Duke TIP and Springfield Public Schools’ gifted education program will be available for comment to the media before or after the ceremony. Members of the media can contact Media Relations Director Mike Brothers at (417) 873-7390 to make arrangements.

Drury has been a national leader in providing education and enrichment programs for academically gifted students more than 30 years. The Drury Center for Gifted Education is the most complete center for gifted education in the state of Missouri, and is one of less than 20 complete gifted education centers in the United States. Each summer, more than 700 children from pre-K through high school attend Drury’s residential and non-residential pre-college programs. Visit Drury Gifted Education for more information.


Joplin Butterfly Garden & Overlook dedication to be held Thursday

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 21, 2014 — Drury University and the Hammons School of Architecture (HSA) will take part in the dedication ceremonies for the Landscapes of Resilience Butterfly Garden and Overlook in Joplin’s Cunningham Park at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, May 22 – the third anniversary of the devastating 2011 tornado.

The Butterfly Garden and Overlook serves as a peaceful place of healing and remembrance, marking the Joplin community’s commitment to moving forward. The project is more than a beautiful space – it’s also steeped with symbolism. Some of the symbolic touches include a water wall with 38 segments representing each of the 38 minutes the tornado was on the ground, two stainless steel sculptures representing a “torn” and “whole” community, and a unique wooden bench and pavilion with forms that evoke transformation and resilience. Rising above it all are steel frames representing homes lost to the tornado.

The Butterfly Garden and Overlook site was designed by HSA students, led by faculty members Traci Sooter and Nancy Chikaraishi. Drury humanities students assisted in collecting and curating personal memories of survivors for a series of story boards at the site.


“The community has been through so much since May 2011, yet they have been a vital part of this project,” says Sooter, Director of the HSA Design/Build program at Drury. “This is our opportunity to give back to all who have been affected and who have helped through this past year. We want everyone to visit and experience the healing elements incorporated into the overlook and garden.”

Drury students and faculty worked closely with the City of Joplin Parks and Recreation and Springfield firm Great River Associates, which provided landscape architectural design. The Landscapes of Resilience project is funded by a $585,000 grant from the TKF Foundation and a $250,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation, $100,000 of which helped fund the Butterfly Garden and Overlook site. Additional Landscape of Resilience partners include Cornell University, the U.S. Forest Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri and TILL Design. A multi-disciplinary research and design team proposed the Landscapes of Resilience project that will study the role of open spaces in recovery from both the Joplin 2011 tornado and Superstorm Sandy that hit New York City and surrounding area in 2012.



Drury awards nearly 600 degrees during spring commencements

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 17, 2014 — Drury University awarded degrees to 587 graduates at its spring commencement ceremonies today. There were 290 undergraduate degrees and 58 graduate degrees conferred at the traditional Day School ceremony, and 312 degrees conferred during a ceremony for the College of Continuing Professional Studies. Some students earned multiple degrees.

In addition, the university conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to longtime nonprofit educator and 1967 Drury alumna Marcia Mitchell, who was the keynote speaker at both ceremonies.


In 1972 Mitchell co-founded The Little Light House, a faith-based center in Tulsa dedicated to providing therapeutic intervention and early education to children with disabilities on a tuition-free basis. The school has served as a model nationwide since then, and has earned accolades that include being named as the nation’s 536th “Point of Light” by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 and recipient of the ONE Award for Oklahoma’s top nonprofit by the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. Mitchell herself has won the Whitney Young Jr. Service Award from the Boy Scouts of America and has been inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame.

Mitchell shared with the graduates the role that faith has played in guiding her through challenging times. This included her time at Drury, where she said she spent many hours in a small prayer room in Stone Chapel.

“It was in that little room on this campus that I learned to depend on God and lean on his strength and not my own,” she said.

Now is the time to dream about the road ahead, Mitchell said. But, citing her own experience with the “sharp turns” that can happen along the way, she urged today’s graduates to embrace the unexpected.

“Dare to delight in the detours of your own life,” she said. “As they just might lead you to destinations beyond your wildest dreams.”

Drury has awarded honorary degrees since 1906. Mitchell joins a list of notables who have received this honor over the past century, including: composers Rodgers and Hammerstein (1949), comedian Bob Hope (1973), Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling (1973), Bob Barker (2007), and former presidential candidate Sen. George McGovern (2008).

Saturday’s commencement ceremonies were the first under President David Manuel, who also addressed the graduates.

“You have made great sacrifices to earn a university degree, and we are proud that you did not waiver in your commitment,” Manuel told the graduates.


Six new members join Drury University’s Board of Trustees

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 16, 2014 — Drury University welcomed six new members to its Board of Trustees today. The new members elected to the board are:

Thomas R. Whitlock, Springfield, Missouri — Whitlock studied music at Drury in the 1970s. He wrote the lyrics to five songs on the 1986 Top Gun soundtrack – including the worldwide smash hit “Take My Breath Away,” which earned him a Golden Globe and an Oscar. He is the recipient of numerous awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and has more than 50 gold and platinum record awards.

Danny Lay, Hong Kong, China — Lay is vice president for business development and operations in southeast Asia at Emerson Electric. He is a fellow member of the Hong Kong Institute of Directors and the independent director of the board for Taiwan Allied Industries Corporation. Lay earned an MBA from Drury in 1979 after completing a Bachelor of Science at Chung Yuan University in Taiwan.

Teresa A. Brekke, Edmond, Oklahoma — Brekke earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Drury in 1983 and a Master of Music from the University of Oklahoma in 1997. She has held a range of marketing and public relations positions throughout her career. Most recently, she was a development director, special events coordinator and announcer for the radio stations KCSC-FM and KBCW-FM. She is a community advisory board member for the Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital in Oklahoma City, and a member of St. Gregory’s University board of directors.

Tim Reese, Springfield, Missouri — Reese is a managing director of investments and shareholder with Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. He graduated from Drury in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Reese has served as president of Drury’s alumni council and on various Drury University advisory boards.

Sarah M. Lewis, Santa Monica, California — Lewis has more than 25 years of financial services experience and has held senior positions with Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company (now JPMorgan Chase), Ernst & Young, Electronic Data Systems Management Consulting Services and Crédit Agricole, in New York, Paris, Amsterdam and Oslo. Lewis returned to the United States in 2006 to co-found Aequitas Wealth Management. She also serves on the board of the Beverly Hills Estate Planning Council and the Cancer Support Community – Benjamin Center. She is a 1981 Drury graduate.

Thomas G. Prater, Springfield, Missouri — Prater, MD, FACS, has been in practice in Springfield since 1987 and currently practices at Mattax-Neu-Prater Eye Center. He is a fellow in the American College of Surgeons and an oral examiner for the American Board of Ophthalmology. Dr. Prater is past president of Springfield Public Schools’ board of education, a consultant for the Cocoa Honors/Chocolate University and a founding board member of the Vision Rehabilitation Center of the Ozarks.

“Drury University is fortunate to have a board of trustees who care deeply for the mission of Drury and bring a breadth of professional expertise,” said Dr. David Manuel, Drury president. “Both are essential qualities of all trustees and this new class of trustees complements the existing board in every way.”

Lyle Reed ’70, becomes board chair following four years of leadership by outgoing chair Lynn Chipperfield ’73. Three trustees are rotating off the board: Doug Pitt, Andi Solaiman and George Thompson. Springfield Public Schools superintendent Dr. Norm Ridder, who is retiring this summer, is also leaving the board.


Drury’s Aaron Jones will address Cox College graduates May 15

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 14, 2014 — Aaron Jones, Dean of Drury University’s College of Continuing Professional Studies, will deliver the keynote address to 186 graduates of Cox College at a commencement ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday, May 16, at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.

Drury’s College of Continuing Professional Studies (CCPS) and Cox College have been educational partners for more than 60 years. CCPS has provided general education and laboratory science courses for Cox College students, and the schools have partnered on dual degree programs at Drury’s Cabool and Monett locations. Jones has been an ex-officio member of the Cox College Board of Trustees since 2012.

“It is a pleasure to feature Mr. Aaron Jones as our commencement speaker,” says Cox College President Lance Ratcliff. “Aaron’s leadership is evident across many collaborative outreach efforts Cox College has with Drury University, highlighted by significant academic initiatives in both Cabool and Monett. The partnership between Cox College and Drury has been strengthened by Aaron’s guidance, benefitting many students at both institutions.”

Cox College is a private college of more than 850 students offering certificate programs, associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in health related fields such as: nursing, diagnostic imaging, nutrition, medical assisting, medical transcription, and medical billing/coding. It is affiliated with CoxHealth.


About Aaron Jones

Prior to his appointment as Dean of Drury’s CCPS, Jones was engaged in the full-time practice of law in Springfield and served as a member of Drury University’s Board of Trustees. He taught as an adjunct instructor for Drury from 2007 to 2011.

Jones received his Bachelor of Arts from Drury in 1995, and earned his Juris Doctor in 1998 and his Master of Laws in 2009 from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He was a member of the Young Lawyers Section Council of the Missouri Bar from 2004 to 2009, and from 2006 to 2008 served on the Missouri Bar’s Board of Governors as the Young Lawyers’ liaison. From 2007-2008 he was president of the Drury University Alumni Association. Jones is a member of King’s Way United Methodist Church, Rotary Club of Springfield (Downtown), the Abilities First board, and a number of other civic and professional organizations. He resides in Springfield with his wife, Cara, and children Kate, Carter and Caleb.


Drury earns more national recognition for “green” efforts across campus

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 12, 2014 — Two national organizations have recently highlighted Drury University’s ongoing commitment to sustainability. The U.S. Green Building Council has awarded the University Suites residential building with a LEED Platinum certification, and The Princeton Review has once again named Drury in its annual guide to green colleges.

LEED Platinum Certification

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is the most prominent system worldwide for measuring and recognizing the energy efficiency and environmental sustainability of buildings. Opened to students in August 2012, the 72-bed University Suites residence hall was designed by Bates & Associates Architects and built by Morelock-Ross. Drury currently leases the property from developer Bryan Magers.

“For Drury to be the home of a LEED Platinum certified project demonstrates commitment to values we can be proud of passing on to our students,” says Robert Weddle, Professor and Assistant Director for Academic Initiatives at the Hammons School of Architecture.

Only about a dozen other university residential buildings in the United States have achieved LEED Platinum certification. University Suites is the first in the state of Missouri to do so. It is the second building on Drury’s campus to earn a LEED designation – The O’Reilly Family Event Center has achieved LEED Gold certification.

Green Colleges Guide

For the fifth year in a row, Drury University is one of the 322 most environmentally responsible colleges in the United States and Canada, according to The Princeton Review. Drury is one of six Missouri colleges selected, and the only one in the Springfield area.

The Princeton Review selection process is based on “Green Ratings” that were tallied for 832 schools in the summer of 2013. The Princeton Review uses data from annual surveys to evaluate a school’s environmental and sustainability-related policies, practices and academic offerings.

Sustainability efforts can be seen across Drury’s campus. They range from buildings like University Suites and the O’Reilly Family Event Center to everyday actions such as bike rentals and the removal of trays in the cafeteria to reduce water use. Just last week, two golf carts used for campus tours were fitted with solar panels that will keep their batteries charged so they will no longer need to be plugged in overnight.

Other Drury sustainability initiatives cited by The Princeton Review include:

  • Converting Stone Chapel to geothermal heating and cooling
  • Establishing the Central Street Recycling Center
  • Installing solar panels on the roof of Smith Hall
  • Building a LEED Platinum certified Habitat for Humanity home

The complete list of 332 schools and a PDF of the Green Guide can be found online at:


Engaged Learning Summit highlights community action

Community engagement is a lynchpin of education at Drury University, and a recent event spotlighted students’ efforts  to reach out beyond the campus’s borders.

Drury’s first Engaged Learning Summit was a chance for local leaders to hear first-hand from students who are translating their course work into community action in a variety of ways. The efforts are also summarized in a new Annual Community Engagement Report available online.

“We are committed to measuring our worth in part by our capacity to leave the Ozarks better than the way we found it,” Charles Taylor, vice president for academic affairs, told those gathered.

When measured in time and dollar value, that worth is large indeed. Drury students provide more than 148,000 hours of local service annually, and the estimated value of those hours is more than $2.8 million.

Students discussed projects such as multi-year study of invertibrates and water quality in Jordan Creek. The data collected and analyzed by environmental science students could help guide the City of Springfield’s efforts to further update the waterway with a more natural streambed. Another highlight was the “Art of Space” projects undertaken by architecture students who create interactive spatial art installations during events such as First Friday Art Walks.

Former Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson listens to Drury architecture students describe "Art of Space."

Former Springfield Mayor Tom Carlson listens to Drury architecture students describe “Art of Space.”

Others included Drury Scholars, which gives local African-American middle and high school students a taste of the college experience, and the Intergenerational Rock Band, which pairs music therapy students with older community members to perform live concerts together.

“What is good for Drury is good for the community, and vice versa,” said Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce President Jim Anderson. “This event is the embodiment of what’s good for Drury and the community.”

Brian Fogle, president of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, appreciated hearing from the students themselves.

“It’s a rewarding experience to see students so engaged in the community, and excited to talk about their work and impact,” Fogle said. “Not only will that benefit them throughout their lives, it should benefit Springfield as they feel more connected to our community.”


Story by Mike Brothers, Drury’s director of media relations. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader. 

Nonprofit educator Marcia Mitchell to speak at Drury’s May commencements

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 8, 2014 — Marcia Mitchell will serve as the keynote speaker for Drury University’s two commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 17, at the O’Reilly Family Event Center. Mitchell will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Drury president Dr. David Manuel will address graduates at a commencement for the first time, as he completes his inaugural year in the university’s top post.

The first ceremony, for Day School and graduate students, will be held at 11:30 a.m., when 293 undergraduate degrees and 54 graduate degrees will be conferred. The second ceremony, for the College of Continuing Professional Studies, will be held at 3 p.m., when 219 bachelor’s degrees and 97 associate degrees will be conferred.

Mitchell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education from Drury in 1967. After her daughter, Missy, was born legally blind, Mitchell saw a need for educational services for children like her. In 1972 she co-founded The Little Light House, a faith-based center in Tulsa dedicated to providing therapeutic intervention and early education to children with disabilities on a tuition-free basis. Professional staff and volunteers work with students who struggle with challenges such as autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, deafness and much more.

The Little Light House’s many accolades include being named as the nation’s 536th “Point of Light” by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, Outstanding School of the Year by the International Christian Accrediting Association in 2003, and recipient of the ONE Award for Oklahoma’s top nonprofit by the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. Mitchell herself has won the Whitney Young Jr. Service Award from the Boy Scouts of America and has been inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame.

“Marcia Mitchell is one of a long line of Drury graduates who have made important contributions to the improvement of society and to the betterment of their communities,” Manuel says. “Her work with children who have special needs and their families has gained national attention and is the model for many other similar providers. Drury University is fortunate to count Ms. Mitchell as one of our graduates and is pleased to honor her with the Honorary Doctorate.”

Media: Members of the news media are invited to photograph or videotape the graduation ceremonies. Please contact Media Relations Director Mike Brothers about coverage plans or for more information about 2014 graduates.

Public contact: Dr. John Taylor, (417) 873-6356,