Drury University announced today the formation of the Drury Athletic Fund and several key initial contributions to kick off the source that will help establish the financial foundation for the university's 17 intercollegiate athletic programs.
Among the initial gifts is a $1 million donation from Larry O'Reilly, a 1968 Drury graduate and Chief Operating Officer for O'Reilly Automotive, Inc. O'Reilly and his family were integral in providing the lead naming gift of the O'Reilly Family Event Center, the $13.5 million, 3,100-seat arena that opened in the fall of 2010 and serves as home for the Drury basketball and volleyball programs.
"One of the main things I think I can say for myself and my family is that we've always been taught that if you are or become a success, you try to give back to what got you there," O'Reilly, a former basketball player for the Panthers, said. "Giving to Drury has always been a natural thing for us, and sports is so important and such a healthy part of a school and its educational environment. I can't think of a school that does that and brings it all together better than Drury."
The Drury Athletic Fund will be designed to encourage financial gifts that can help sustain and fund its sports programs for years and years beyond the reach of the assorted booster clubs per team.
“Drury Athletics has enjoyed immense success and tremendous support for many years,” said Matt Miller, Drury's Executive Director of Athletic Administration. “In many ways, the exceptional performance of Drury programs can be traced back to many loyal and generous donors and supporters.
“The formation of the Drury Athletic Fund seeks to provide long-term, financial sustainability that will help ensure and protect the operational funding necessary to sustain such quality athletic teams.”
Other donations among the roughly $1.5 million already procured to help the Drury Athletic Fund's beginning include a $50,000 donation from Stanley Ball in the name of Ben and Jean Parnell for the general athletics fund and a $30,000 gift from Jeff Collins for the Kathy Collins Scholarship for Leadership and Character, awarded to a female Drury student-athlete (with current DU softball senior Denise Taylor as the inaugural recipient).
Ball said, "(Current DU president Todd Parnell) and his parents, Ben and Jean, were the reason I became so close to Drury, and sports have always been my love. I really love Drury, love their sports programs and feel so fortunate to be a part of it."
Collins, who also works closely with Drury Athletics and several of its sports teams through the Champions Committed To Kids program he founded, said he's always admired the Drury programs and what they stood for, and when his wife, Kathy, passed away two years ago, "I wanted to do something special in her name, something that will love on long after even I'm gone."
In addition, Drury graduates Tom and Ann McAlear have funded a $50,000 scholarship – one that has been matched by alumnus John Beuerlein and his wife Crystal – for operational funding to defray start-up costs for an annual trip to India involving a Drury men's and women's basketball student-athlete accompanying Miller to Durgerapur, India. The group will conduct five-day camps with physical education instructors and schoolchildren at the Hem Sheela Model School, founded by Drury chemistry professors Drs. Rabindra and Protima Roy.
Drury also announced that long-time Panthers baseball coach Mark Stratton has accepted a position as the Associate Athletic Director for Development, with one of his primary tasks to raise money and develop relationships on behalf of the athletic department.
“Through his process of recovery from a recent mild stroke, we've had a series of candid conversations about Mark's future with Drury Athletics, and from the beginning we've agreed to honor whatever Mark would decide,” Miller said.
“Largely because of his hard work and engaging personality, Mark has become one of our most valued ambassadors. His attitude since coming to Drury has been centered around contributing to departmental success in any way possible, and as he moves from coaching baseball to becoming our lead development officer in the athletic department, Mark's skill-set will be an integral part of our continued success and progress as a program.”
Stratton spent six seasons as the only coach in the program's NCAA Division II baseball history, compiling a 175-134 record, and guided the Panthers to a Great Lakes Valley Conference championship and NCAA-II Tournament berth in their inaugural 2007 season in addition to four GLVC Tourney berths in six seasons. His long-time assistant coach, Scott Nasby, has stepped in as the interim head baseball coach this spring.
It's March, which means it is time for madness. Last week we saw small-schools wrap up district play and there was no shortage of upsets, big-time performances, and history being made. Expect the same this week with the big schools. Here is my breakdown...
I felt pretty comfortable predicting the district tournaments for small-school girls' basketball last week. Most tournaments either had a clear-cut, overwhelming favorite, or only one or two teams capable of putting together three straight solid...
By this time next week we will know who all of the small-class district champions are and what their path to the Final Four looks like. Before we can get there though, we have to get through a full week of win of go home district basketball.