Drury professor builds and flies airplanes

To many people, studying economics conjures thoughts of studying the theories of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek and analyzing spreadsheets of data looking for correlations. In one word: boring.

It is anything but boring says long-time Drury Economics Professor Steve Mullins, “You can’t talk about any news of the day without it having important economic ramifications,” Mullins said. “We are all faced with finite resources. Economics helps us design institutions, government policies and markets that help us make the most of resources and not let them go to waste.”

Mullins, who marks his 30th year as a faculty member in Drury’s Breech School of Business this academic year, doesn’t spend all of his time crunching data and studying theory. His father, who died in 1991, was a World War II fighter pilot. After his father’s death, Mullins, who had always wanted to earn his pilot’s license, made learning to fly a priority. However, he wasn’t satisfied with just flying aircraft; he wanted to build them, too.

Dr. Mullins in his aircraft

“I built my first aircraft from a kit. It took me about 3-to-4 months to build it in my garage and its maiden flight was in October of 1993,” Mullins said.

He’s logged over 2,000 hours mostly in experimental aircraft, and his current plane has aerobatic ability. He does perform a few basic aerobatics…with great caution. “I take the aircraft up to two mistakes high. You need enough altitude so that you can make two mistakes and still recover. I like to roll inverted (fly upside down),” Mullins said.

Besides his usual economics courses, Mullins also teaches a class called The Economics of Poverty and Discrimination in which he and his students examine the causes of poverty and income inequality. One goal of that course is to help his students develop a sense of empathy for the less fortunate. “If my students get through that class with one thought ‘There but for the Grace of God go I,’ then, that’s success,” Mullins said.

Besides a couple of guest teaching spots in England and at Texas Lutheran, Mullins has spent his entire career at Drury. He says the students are the same as when he started teaching three decades ago: inquisitive, hard working and energetic. Among his achievements at Drury for which he is most proud is taking economics students to conferences and watching them present their research.

The Oklahoma State graduate says that one of the reasons he’s stayed at Drury so long is due to his colleagues, “Coming from a big state school, I never really rubbed elbows with anyone outside of economics or accounting, but during my first month at Drury I met people with drastically different worldviews and opinions. My experience as a Drury faculty member has been more educational than my entire graduate school program.”


An opportunity to network and honor a long-time Drury economics professor

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., April 12, 2012 — Dr. Bill Rohlf began teaching at Drury in 1972 and he still begins each class with his signature question, “Is everybody happy?” Dr. Rohlf will be honored on Thursday, April 19 from 5-6:30 p.m. at a Breech School networking event hosted at Springfield Brewing Company. Current Breech School of Business students, alumni and local business people are invited to attend. Please RSVP to Dr. Robin Sronce at

Dr. Bill Rohlf

Dr. Rohlf came to Drury in 1972 straight out of graduate school at Kansas State. He literally wrote the book on economics that his students use. “My basic  economics text started with a few chapters and it gradually grew into a spiral-bound volume that my students purchased in the bookstore. It took me about ten years to finish the book and find a publisher for it. The first edition came out in 1988, and it’s now in its eighth edition,” Dr. Rohlf said.

Dr. Rohlf will speak at the event. Breech students and alumni are encouraged to use the event to network. There is no charge to participate and free appetizers will be provided.