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Getting to Know Drury’s 18th President: Part 2 – Formative Years

In an effort to better get to know Dr. J. Timothy Cloyd, we are publishing a Q&A series about his selection and the man himself. The first installment featured a conversation with search committee members about the selection and vetting process. Now, we turn to Dr. Cloyd to ask him about his childhood and his early career in academics. Future conversations with the incoming president are forthcoming in this series.

Where did you grow up?

dr-cloydCloyd: I grew up in a lot of places. My parents were United Methodist missionaries and teachers in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), in a region called the Katanga. My family was evacuated from the Congo during the Katanga war for secession. We then moved to the Navajo Indian Reservation where my parents ran a boarding school called the United Methodist Mission School and an outpost on the reservation in the De-Na-Zin or in English Bisti. The school was between the towns of Farmington and Shiprock in New Mexico. There were 600 Navajo students who lived on-campus. They came mostly from the remote parts of the Navajo Reservation. I remember we used to get our clothes out of mission barrels and once a week we would haul water and supplies out into the De-Na-Zin.

The cultural shift from sub-Saharan Africa to the Navajo culture and landscape was dramatic. The older boys used to carry me around on their shoulders. I remember all of those guys. I learned a great deal about cultural differences and Navajo culture and language, the way of the Dine they called it, from those older students. I remember once I was pointing at something with my finger and one of my beloved “older brothers” (I called him “Big Daddy”) said to me, “Tim we don’t point with our finger, point with your chin.” From then on I pointed with my chin. I learned hundreds of other things from them about being quiet and listening – about how the human spirit is connected to the spiritual world – about Skinwalkers – about stopping and reading the cultural and human terrain – about nature and about honor and courage from the way that they lived their lives. Many of those boys who carried me on their shoulders volunteered for military service during Vietnam – they weren’t drafted – it was just part of their culture to volunteer just like the Navajo Code Talkers during World War II. A lot of them, too many of them, never came home.

When I was about 14 or so we moved back to my family’s ancestral home in middle Tennessee. I went to high school there and arrived just in time for the busing in the 1970s. It was so strange coming from the reservation and that school, where I was from a majority culture, but living as a minority, into an environment exploding with racial tension and an undercurrent of racism. So I grew up in a lot of places and learned from real experiences the reality and value of diversity in our country and the world.

What experiences in your early life would you point to as having the most profound influence on you? Any heroes?

That is hard to narrow down. First, was my memory of my father telling me the news that one of the Navajo boys I looked up to and loved was killed in Vietnam. It was hard. What was even more difficult for me was following the Navajo tradition of not ever speaking of the dead. So when an Arthur, a Begay, or a Manygoats (I am using last names) died I could no longer talk about them with other Navajos. That is just how it was.

Second, was seeing how my parents embraced Navajo culture and traditions. Both my parents and my sister are United Methodist ministers, but when my father took over the Mission School he started encouraging the Navajos to integrate their own practices and traditional religion into Christian services. Before then, the Navajos weren’t even allowed to speak Navajo at the school much less to live out their own faith tradition. I remember funerals that blended faith traditions – so there would be a casket, but it would be filled with all sorts of things that the person would need in the next life. My father would also take me to Navajo healing services where we would sit in a Hogan (a traditional Navajo home) for long periods of time in silence where medicine men would do sand paintings and sing to heal a person. One of my parent’s closest friends was a Creek medicine man named Harry Long. Every time we moved to a new house Harry would come and burn sweet grass, wave over it with an eagle feather, and sing in every room to cleanse the house. My younger sister was struck with a debilitating illness when she was around 13 and I remember my father calling Harry Long and some Navajo medicine men to come and sing over her. This shaped my perspective of my Christian faith as open and accepting – connecting with others through their own faith.

Third, was the fact that I grew up in a home that was open to everyone. My parents taught us hospitality and generosity. They were always bringing people home who needed a place to stay. Many mornings I would get up to have breakfast and there would be two or three people at the table who I had never met or seen before. Once, some Creek friends of Harry’s were travelling across the country and they stopped to camp out in our back yard – they stayed for six weeks. As far as heroes are concerned there are of course my parents, Harry Long, a Navajo elder named Fred Yazzie, a minister from the Congo from the Kasai tribe named Leon Mwambai, and many of my teachers and United Methodist minister mentors.

At what point did you realize that you wanted to pursue the career path you selected?

Well, first of all, I do not often use the language of “career” in referring to my vocation. I prefer to use the old notion of a calling. My father has a Ph.D. in cross-cultural – what we would call today multi-cultural – education. I witnessed him raising funds for the mission school. So that influenced me.

But when I was in high school I played football, soccer, baseball and wrestled. You could not do that today because a single sport is now a year-round activity. I thought I was going to go to college to play football on a scholarship. Then when I was a junior I suffered a terrible knee injury followed by an infection. I was not a very good student at the time and had placed such energy and hope into my football aspirations that I thought life was over.

This injury turned out to be a blessing that changed my life. I had to miss a semester of high school and was assigned a homeschool teacher. She was hard on me, but inspired me to begin reading the classics and philosophy. I was immediately transformed and decided to pursue a vocation as an academic – reading, studying, writing about, and teaching what I loved. As far as “presidenting” is concerned, well you don’t major in that, but I knew that God had blessed me with a passion for the transformational impact of education, talents to work with others in developing a shared vision, executing that vision by getting others excited about it and to buy into the dream through actions, and a gift for communication. When the opportunity arose for me to become president of Hendrix College, I was drafted. I enjoy the work of leadership, but still love my academic discipline.

Were you more competitive or more collaborative growing up? What about now?

I have always been intensely competitive and I still have that zest in me. It is what makes me push myself to achieve excellence and it is what drives me to achieve the best for any organization for which I work. Wisdom and change, however, come to us with age and with learning. So over the years, particularly in the context of leadership, I have learned that collaboration is the most effective method to achieve buy-in and to achieve sustainable change and momentum. This is particularly true in the context of higher education where our values and practice of shared governance means that all key stakeholders are at the table – all voices are heard.  It means that we all work together and support each other and our shared vision and objectives. Too many times I have witnessed situations where individual board members are doing one thing with pet projects, individual deans and faculty members are doing another thing, and the administration is doing something else. This produces chaos where what is needed is coherent collaboration.

The value of collaboration lies in the fact that no one person has all of the answers, ideas, or skills to accomplish significant goals, to develop a vision, or to realize a transformational vision. There was a time in our society when we believed that all the priorities, direction, even the specific objectives for an organization came out of the office of the CEO or the president. This view alleviated everyone else in the organization from taking ownership and making things happen all the way up and down the institution. If things did not work out it was the president’s fault, but with collaboration if things are not working the community bears responsibility, too. In a collaborative process with community input, the leader is responsible for setting the tone and the direction and holding people accountable for their roles and commitments. It is more like what Eisenhower did when developing the plan for the European operations in WW II. He just continuously said: “Direction Berlin!”

What experiences had the greatest impact on you as an undergraduate? How does that inform the way you have tried to lead undergraduate institutions?

I remember sitting in my first philosophy class and reading Socrates. In his dialogues a question is raised (and I am paraphrasing): “Is what is good, good because the gods say it is good, or do the gods point to what is good because it is good?” This challenged my view of the source of the good and of God. I went on to read many other thinkers who shocked and challenged my views, such as Hume, Wollstonecraft, Nietzsche, W.E.B. Dubois, Foucault, Cornell West, and others. I struggled with the questions raised and was forced to examine my assumptions. So the experience that had the greatest impact on me was to be challenged to think critically and analytically. “To learn how to learn” – that is part of the essence of the liberal arts. So I think that quality education is liberal arts and science – interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary. It is an education that teaches students how to solve puzzles, to make connections between disciplines, to see difference, and to realize that perhaps more than one interpretation of the truth may be possible. I was challenged to ask questions about the historical context in which something was discovered or argued, to try and understand the meaning and significance of topics in courses from the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. In an ideal community it is also a place where people, no matter their background or ideas, can be called into accountability for the arguments they make or positions they take without fear.

This informed my leadership of undergraduate institutions because I believe my role is one of service that provides the context and the resources for faculty and the community to challenge students in this way and to make connections both inside and outside of the classroom. This is also why I have concerns about liberal arts colleges or liberal arts universities that try sometimes to mimic large research universities. Those institutions are fragmented. Knowledge is in siloes. Our complex and changing world requires interconnectivity. It also requires an environment that challenges students’ basic assumptions and avoids becoming an echo chamber.

Why did you choose to study political science as you earned advanced degrees?

I assign a book in my Introduction to Politics courses. It is called “Attacking Faulty Reasoning.” The book takes students through each fallacy in reasoning and sharpens the mind. I read that book as an undergraduate and it helped me a great deal. My undergraduate degree as a double major in philosophy and political science prepared me well for graduate school. Within political science, I focused on international relations and political theory. I also studied management and business at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. I chose political science because it allowed me to study normative questions such as what gives legitimacy to the way in which we organize ourselves into communities. It also trained me in qualitative and quantitative methodologies to test assumptions. So I guess it was the intersection of something like the humanities and the social sciences that drew me to the field.

How did your experiences traveling and studying abroad shape you then – and now?

A famous author once said that he intended his writing to “de-familiarize the familiar.” I have travelled, worked, and studied abroad quite a bit and in a variety of roles. I think I have lived a total, off and on, for four years in Eastern and Western Europe. I have also worked in volunteer projects and been on study tours to Central and South America and the Middle East. For example, I have worked on Habitat for Humanity and UMCOR projects. No matter where I have been, it has changed me in that it has refreshed my mind and put my little corner of the world and my big issues into perspective. I have had these experiences abroad in different seasons of my life and have found they have affected my thinking in different ways at different times. My wife lived in New Zealand for 10 years. I lived for a few years in Belgium. While there I studied and worked and learned not only French, but became fluent in Flemish/Dutch. I became totally immersed in the culture. In fact, so much so that most people did not realize I was from the United States. Usually, expats hang out with each other while abroad, but it is the immersion that I think is key to really getting outside of yourself and your particularistic identity. I have been to various parts of Africa many times. We started several exchange and study abroad programs while I was at Hendrix. The one of which I am most proud was the Rwandan Presidential Scholars program. We were able to bring 185 Rwandan students here to study math and science at liberal arts colleges and we sent scores of students there to study and to do internships. These experiences have shaped me and made me a strong advocate for these kinds of experiences for all students.

How do you think those early experiences shaped your views on higher education?

Those experiences definitely had an impact on how I view higher education today. I believe that the institutions that will thrive and gain recognition in this competitive environment will be those that have a coherent, compelling, differentiating vision and narrative. This will have to be something that is produced through collaboration with all stakeholders, and through empirical research we will have to know that the key differentiator will be compelling in our markets and with donors. What differentiates us must be universal and defining of the experience that students have at the institution.

How did all of this end up shaping your overall world view?

These experiences taught me that there are many roads to spirituality and ways to have a faith journey. Harry Long used to say to me that a teepee is held up by many poles, but all of them point toward heaven. My own Christian faith defines who I am. The life of Christian prayer, discipleship, and embracing the gifts of the Holy Spirit is what Wendy and I try to live each day. But these defining childhood experiences taught me that there are perhaps other paths to living out an authentic and meaningful faith journey. What we as Christians, and citizens of this country or of any campus community, should remember and embrace is that we must have the humility to know that we do not have all the answers.

We are all fallible and fallen. When we claim to have or know the whole truth out of our particularistic identity, or claim that because of our particular identity we hold a virtue that others do not, this leads quickly to the silencing of voices different than our own. If we do this we learn nothing and dialogue stops. This is happening on many campuses and the result has been a disintegration of civility, a rejection of the free exchange of ideas and a labeling of one another. I believe John Stuart Mill was right in defending openness as the expression and discussion of all ideas, ideals, and opinions if they are not part of hate speech or incite physical violence toward others.

Read Part 3 of the Q&A series: Teaching, Scholarship & Leadership


Getting to Know Drury’s 18th President: Part 1 – The Selection Process

Part One: The View from the Search Committee

In an effort to better get to know Dr. J. Timothy Cloyd following a confidential search process, we asked several members of the search committee to discuss how and why they chose the school’s next leader. We will hear directly from Dr. Cloyd himself in future installments.

How did Dr. Cloyd come to the search team’s attention?

Lyle Reed, Chair, Board of Trustess: I was speaking with my good friend Dr. Robert Wyatt, President of Coker College and former director of Drury’s Breech School of Business Administration and asked him if he could think of any candidates he would recommend. He highly recommended Dr. Tim Cloyd, who had been president of Hendrix College when Robert was an ACE Fellow (mentoring and training individuals to be higher education senior leaders) assigned to Hendrix.  He indicated Tim had returned to the classroom, but might now be interested in returning to leadership and would check with him.  He then told me Dr. Cloyd was interested and gave me his contact information. We set up a meeting in Conway and he subsequently applied to be a candidate for the presidency.

What was your first impression of Dr. Cloyd?

Reed: I think many of us were looking for a charismatic individual, with a broadcaster’s voice, right out of Central Casting, who would quiet a room as soon as he walked in. That is not Dr. Cloyd. He is soft spoken, and doesn’t desire to take over a room.

Second impression?

Reed: His thoughtful and strategic mind quickly becomes captivating on any subject, especially higher education as it relates to yesterday, today and tomorrow.  His extensive background and experience provides plenty of substance for those discussions.

So, why did you choose him?

Bill Hart, Board of Trustees: Our search committee, with survey input from faculty, staff and alumni, compiled a list of specific criteria our new president must have. Dr. Cloyd easily met all the criteria. Additionally, and to me most importantly, Dr. Cloyd did for Hendrix what we’re hoping to do here at Drury. I believe he will assimilate all the strengths and wonderful attributes of Drury in a new vision of the University, which will be compelling and attractive to today’s students.

What excites you most about him?

Penny Clayton, faculty member: Dr. Cloyd is clearly a visionary leader and impressive intellectual. He has become quickly familiar with Drury’s background and is looking forward to providing fresh solutions to ongoing struggles. He has already developed a strong desire to get to know the Drury community and during interviews, spoke of the importance of exercising emotional intelligence.

Hart: Dr. Cloyd has such an incredible breadth and depth to his background, education and life experiences. I believe he demonstrates a quiet, but successful, analytical approach to problems and issues which will appeal to everyone at Drury: students, faculty, alumni and the Board.

How extensive was the vetting process?

Reed: It was as extensive as possible without hiring a gumshoe to shadow him and interrogate his acquaintances back to childhood. It included multiple face-to-face interviews with committee members, numerous telephone conversations, a volume of emails, Internet searches, and extensive reference and public records checking by our professional search firm. The search firm conducted a comprehensive interview with him. And our search committee received his medical reports and had background conversations with other confidential sources.

What did you learn from vetting that you didn’t know from his CV?

Reed: We learned more about his personal life, especially his family.  He was divorced some seven years ago from the mother of his children – Thomas, 16, and Samuel, 18. He is remarried and his wife, Wendy, has a son from a previous marriage, Logan, who is attending college in New Zealand. She lived in New Zealand for several years after running the family business in Nashville. Wendy and Tim were neighbors and classmates in high school and were reacquainted at a class reunion.

Were there any surprising moments during the process?

Reed: No, but there were some very candid discussions about serious topics, including one in particular about an incident that significantly impacted his family. On Christmas evening 2012, Dr. Cloyd hosted some international students at his home. That event had ended and he, his wife and sons were having family Christmas time together which included exchanging gifts, relaxing together, and he had a drink. Around midnight, an armed fugitive forced his way into their home and overtly threatened Dr. Cloyd’s family with harm if they didn’t do as told. He was in another room and heard the commotion, retrieved his personal handgun for which he is trained and holds a permit, and proceeded to hold the intruder at bay until the police arrived. Fortunately, the police arrived fairly quickly. Numerous police officers entered the residence while the person was still at large in the house. There was a considerable struggle and force was required to restrain the intruder, who was on drugs. He recalled it for us as a very frightening, chaotic scene, and a traumatic situation for his family, who witnessed everything first hand. It was clear to us that he did exactly what he believed he needed to do to protect his family in that difficult situation, and the good news was that none of his family was harmed, nor did he have to harm the intruder. It was a horrifying experience for the Cloyd family that required them to receive subsequent victim counseling. It is hard to be prepared for emergencies where you only have adrenaline-filled seconds to react.

Hart: I was an FBI agent for four years before entering a legal practice. After hearing the facts about the entire incident, I could understand why this event was so impactful. No one can imagine or anticipate how fast something like that happens and how disorienting, confusing and terrifying the situation can be. Law enforcement trains for that type of incident and still, you never know how you will react until it happens. In training, you talk about the incident after it’s over and invariably someone says they wish they had done something a little differently. It is never the same next time, there is always some circumstance that changes. This is certainly the kind of situation no one wants to go through.

What path led Dr. Cloyd to Drury?

Reed: Well, he had resigned as president of Hendrix about three years ago. The committee wanted to know why such a successful president would step down and return to the classroom. Those decision processes are not often a straight line and usually have multiple influences.  He had been thinking about stepping down for a year or so. He had twelve years of major happenings at Hendrix, including weathering two major recessions and had just completed a successful comprehensive capital campaign. Presidencies are demanding of personal time. Tim believes that presidents often have a “shelf life” at a particular institution and new thinking is needed to keep strategies fresh and relevant. And, while it was not a primary driver, the invasion incident was a life-changing experience for him and his family and influenced their personal priorities. I think all of those things combined to cause him to take a timeout. And, his timeout came to an end at the same time we began our search.

What is the one thing you want the Drury community to know about Dr. Cloyd?

Hart: I believe he is a really quick study. We shouldn’t be surprised if he has discovered a lot more about the issues facing Drury and today’s liberal arts education by July 1 than any of us expect. I suspect he will have many ideas about how to move Drury forward sooner than we anticipate and he will be right.

Clayton: He will be active in the Drury and Springfield communities and is dedicated to ensuring Drury’s future as a prestigious liberal arts university. I believe he will thoughtfully assess the current Drury climate, yet move quickly in developing momentum for a successful Drury future.

Reed: He is an empirical decision-maker and action-oriented. Traits that all references shared were: he is a strategic thinker, idea generator, entrepreneur, risk taker, visionary and efficacious leader. Our committee asked Dr. Cloyd: Of those traits, which one he would most embrace?  His answer: he is an “idea person.”  But, I believe they all speak to who Tim Cloyd is. I have personally spent a lot of time with Dr. Cloyd since the search team voted unanimously to recommend him to the full board of trustees as Drury’s 18th president, and I am now even more convinced that Tim Cloyd is the right person to lead Drury into the future we all desire.

Read Part 2 of the Q&A Series: The Formative Years.

CoxHealth CEO to speak at Founders Day convocation Thursday

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Sept. 16, 2014 — CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards, a Drury alumnus and trustee, will speak at 11 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 18 in Stone Chapel as part of the University’s Founders Day convocation.

Edwards will present “The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse,” a title borrowed from Walt Whitman’s poem, “O Me! O Life!” Edwards graduated from Drury in 1988 and was elected to the University’s Board of Trustees in 2012. He currently serves on the boards of numerous organizations, including: the Springfield-Greene County Health Commission, Forest Institute, Community Blood Center of the Ozarks, Cox College, Voluntary Hospitals of America, Missouri Hospital Association and Springfield Innovation, Inc.

Founders Day celebrates the tradition of giving back to Drury and honors the generosity of those who give their time, talent and resources to the University.

“The Founders Day Convocation has historically celebrated those individuals – past and present – whose generosity of spirit and support provide the foundation on which Drury’s very bright future rests,” said Dr. Charles Taylor, vice president for academic affairs. “Their commitment to Drury’s mission of providing an education of the ‘first rank’ that integrates liberal and professional learning in the service of engaged global citizenship is humbling, and it’s appropriate that we pause each year to remember and to celebrate that commitment.”


Drury University welcomes former colonel to Board of Trustees

Reggie WilliamsSPRINGFIELD, Mo., Nov. 21, 2013 — Drury University’s Board of Trustees welcomed Clarence R. (Reggie) Williams to the board on October 25, 2013.

Williams is retired from his position as the president/CEO of the San Antonio Area Foundation, where he helped facilitate tremendous asset growth, community outreach and programmatic initiatives for community improvement. Prior to the San Antonio Area Foundation, Williams served as senior vice president of information systems operations at USAA, and in the United States Air Force, where he achieved colonel ranking.

“Reggie Williams brings an enormous amount of experience and energy to the Drury University Board of Trustees,” says Drury President Dr. David Manuel. “The university stands to gain an important asset that will help it break new academic ground.”

“I can see that the future is very, very bright for Drury University,” Williams says. “The opportunity to be a part of that is something I’m very excited about.”


Drury Trustee Rick Lester dies at age 61

From: Dr. David Manuel

It saddens me to report to you that Drury Trustee William F. (Rick) Lester died Saturday afternoon, July 20, 2013. Rick died after suffering a medical crisis while riding in the Courage Classic bicycle tour through Colorado. The specific cause of death has not been determined.

Drury Trustee Rick Lester

Rick was a 1974 graduate of Drury University and was elected to serve on the Board of Trustees in 2001.  As a member of the Board, Rick chaired the Development Committee and served on special committees at the request of various Chairmen.  He was an unabashedly vibrant supporter of Drury University and kept student success at the forefront of his efforts.  Most recently, Rick served on the Performing Arts Advisory Council as part of the Drury Connect Initiative.

Rick Lester was the CEO of TRG (Target Resource Group), a company he founded in 1995 following a career in arts management. He served as president and executive director of the San Antonio Symphony, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Symphony. Before that, he was a marketing and public relations professional for the Cincinnati Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra. At each of his career stops he helped bring in record revenue and contributions. Throughout his career he consulted for orchestras and other non-profit organizations.

Rick earned a bachelor of arts in political science from Drury in 1974, and a master of business administration from Queens College in Charlotte, N.C.   Over the past few months, Rick served as a visiting professor at Southern Methodist University.  He resided in Woodland Park, Colorado.

Please keep Sandy Lester and all of Rick’s family in your thoughts and prayers.  As more information on funeral arrangements becomes available, I will communicate those to you.

Drury University launches website for presidential search

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., March 26, 2012 — Drury University has launched a Presidential Search website that will allow members of the Drury family and the general public to learn more about the status of the search and to provide feedback about the pursuit of a new university leader.

James Bone

The website can be accessed from Drury’s home page or by going directly to the presidential search website. There, anyone can read the most recent news about the search, submit a comment and learn about the process, as well as find out how to nominate a candidate or apply for the position.

In August of 2011, current Drury President Todd Parnell announced his intention to retire on May 31, 2013. Since that time, Drury has assembled a presidential search committee, conducted research about what attributes key constituencies would prefer in a new president, and, based on that research, assembled a profile of the new president that will guide the search.

The presidential search committee has 20 members: nine trustees, four faculty members, five staff members, one alumna and one student. After receiving candidates, the committee will narrow the list to three, those candidates will be brought to campus for interviews, and, after meeting with the candidates, the board of trustees will appoint the next Drury president. Drury’s Board of Trustees hopes to have a new president named by October 2012.

Drury President Todd Parnell

About Todd Parnell: Parnell graduated from Drury in 1969, served as interim president beginning in May of 2007 and earned the presidency full-time in January 2008. He is the first Drury graduate to serve as the university’s president. When he retires in May 2013, the former bank president will be 66 years old and he has indicated that he wants to spend more time with his wife and family. Parnell was involved with Drury long before he became president. He is a former Drury board of trustee member, was the founding director of the Edward Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, and taught entrepreneurship classes in the Breech School of Business.

Media: Search committee chairman James Bone is the spokesperson for all search committee business. He will be available today, Monday, March 26 from 9:30-10:30 a.m. (Central). Mr. Bone can be reached at (401) 451-8112. Bone is a 1980 Drury graduate and has been a board of trustee member since 1999. He resides in Rhode Island.

Media Contact: James Bone, Chairman of the Drury Presidential Search Committee, Office: (401) 451-8112, E-mail: