WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The promise of an endowed professorship in the William and Virginia Darr Honors Program at Missouri State University-West Plains has come to fruition.
At Thursday’s Missouri State University Board of Governors meeting in Springfield, Missouri State-West Plains Chancellor Drew Bennett announced that university officials had received the minimum amount needed in donations and pledges, $250,000, to create the William and Virginia Darr Endowed Honors Professorship.
The announcement fulfills a promise made in 2008 when members of the Philanthropic Women for Education organization pledged an annual gift for five years toward the professorship while university officials sought to fully endow the position. Donations collected from individuals, businesses and organizations recently reached $250,000, enough to endow the professorship, which is currently held by the program’s founder, Assistant Professor of Letters/Director of the Darr Honors Program Dennis Lancaster.
“A little over a year ago we announced our first endowed professorship, the Donna Jones Professorship of Nursing. Now we can say we have two endowed professorships,” Bennett said. “This is extremely important in our effort to attract and retain quality faculty members for our programs. Those who have helped make this dream a reality know the value of education and truly appreciate the impact that one teacher can make on hundreds, if not thousands, of students over the course of a career; therefore, establishing a professorship is not only an investment in our campus, it’s an investment in the future of Missouri.”
The professorship was named in honor of William and Virginia Darr, Springfield, long-time supporters of the program who contributed the greatest amount to the professorship fund, university officials said. “Virginia and I are delighted to continue to support the West Plains campus’ honors program and are very pleased with the success of the program under the leadership of Dennis Lancaster,” said William Darr, a former member of the Missouri State University Board of Governors who, with his wife, made a donation in 2006 that led to the program’s endowment.
Others who have donated to the fund include Philanthropic Women for Education, the Vivian H. Drago Trust, Dr. Marvin and Bettye Fowler of West Plains, Jeanette K. Grisham of West Plains, Beard Law Firm, Elizabeth Grisham and the late Sam Grisham of West Plains, James and Leanne Albritton of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, Joe and Amanda Driscoll of Nixa, Brad and Trish (Ruiz) Pearson of Springfield, and Rogers and Anne Taylor of West Plains. Leanne Albritton, Joe Driscoll, Trish Pearson and Rogers Taylor all are graduates of the Darr Honors Program, university officials pointed out.
Created in 1998, the Darr Honors Program has had remarkable success; 100 students were enrolled in the program this past year alone. Graduates have pursued careers in law, accounting, pharmacology, nursing, business and the military. Many serve today as high school or college instructors or staff members, ministers, and even a film screenwriter.
“The Darr Honors Program will soon celebrate its 15th year, and it’s difficult to describe how appreciative I am for the support the program has generated over those years, especially the continuing support of Mr. and Mrs. Darr,” Lancaster said. “They care deeply about the people of this region, and this is just one of the many programs and organizations they support.
“It’s also humbling to realize something you helped to bring from its infancy has reached so many students and has been blessed by those who believe in what you do in the program,” Lancaster continued. “And it’s not just the Darrs; a consortium of people have shown how much they believe in the program, our students and our method of educating students. With such good friends, we have only more to look forward to as we continue to develop the program and its outreach to our brightest, most creative and most willing to be challenged students.”
University officials said donations to the professorship are still being accepted to increase the fund beyond the $250,000 minimum. Donors have the option of making a one-time gift or a pledge for an annual gift for the next five years.
For more information about giving to the professorship or other ways to give to Missouri State-West Plains, call the development office at 417-255-7240 or visit the office’s website at http://wp.missouristate.edu/development/.