Hard Work U
Hard Work U
Randall Murphree
Randall Murphree
AFA Journal editor

May 2014 – Whether hosting presidents, prime ministers and CEOs, educating its 1,500 students to be leaders in their fields, practicing five-star hospitality, showing off its pristine campus or demonstrating unapologetic patriotism, College of the Ozarks has crafted its unique niche as a place where excellence is served up in every aspect of its multifaceted Point Lookout, Missouri, campus. 

School of the Ozarks was established in 1906 to provide Christian education for the remote area’s youth who might have no other door to a solid education. In 1956, two years of college were added, and in 1965, the school expanded to include a four-year liberal arts college. It has intentionally remained small when contrasted to today’s gargantuan campuses where more is often construed to mean better. 

Just south of Branson, Missouri, the small campus has well earned its nickname of “Hard Work U,” a title the no-tuition school wears with pride. Students work in scores of campus endeavors – dairy and beef cattle, horticulture, art and pottery, press and print shop, hospitality (restaurant and hotel), campus offices and more. Its stellar reputation abroad is why it has hosted such world luminaries as President George W. Bush, Great Britain Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, U.S. Army Gen.Colin Powell (Ret.) and countless others. 

AFA Journal recently interviewed Dr. Jerry C. Davis, president of the college since 1988. Dr. Davis shared insights regarding today’s campuses and the challenges of our culture. 

AFA Journal: What makes College of the Ozarks unique?
Jerry Davis: Well, there are seven work colleges in the nation, but this one is different from others in that not only do students work their way through school, but also we discourage debt. We don’t write federal or state loans, and last spring we served notice that we would not even certify private loans. I don’t know of another college like that.

Debt is a problem not only of college students, it’s a problem in the whole country. So we’re taking a stand that this is a work college, not a debt college. We tell students, “If you want to borrow money, go somewhere else; there are plenty of colleges that will be happy to have you.”

AFAJ: Do you have plans or desires to see the college grow larger?
JD: We’re at 1,500 students. This year, we had 4,300 applications, and we accepted about 425. That includes about 100 high school students. A lot of people want us to be bigger. They say, “You could have 5,000 students.” But with size, comes the difficulty of maintaining what people admire most about the school, and that’s its character. We don’t need the college to be bigger; we need to produce leaders who will get out and make a difference.

AFAJ: What has caused most college campuses to merit the “liberal” label?
JD: In the 1960s, we saw a war that was misrepresented by the media. Veterans were not treated properly. The so-called free sex, drugs, do-your-own-thing culture took root. 

In my view, those people who were marching in the streets in the ’60s are today standing in the classrooms running education institutions. They are of my generation, and the culture that we’re living in today reflects exactly what those people wanted. We all know that’s not good. Most people would tell you that America is headed in the wrong direction. 

AFAJ: So what do we do about it?
JD: We’d better wake up and stand up for what we believe to be basic American values, or we’ll pay a higher price as we go down the road. The dissolution of the family in this country is fundamental to just about any social problem you can think of. 

Until we start encouraging moral values – by the laws that we have and by the lives that we live and the institutions that inculcate family values – then the family unit will continue to disintegrate and we will continue to pay a high price for it.  

AFAJ: What hope do you see for the current young adult generation?
JD: How does a kid growing up nowadays acquire values? Where will they get them? On their iPhone, DVDs, television, movies?

The culture has marginalized those institutions – home, church and school – that have historically made us what we are. And I think that’s a reflection of the 1960s. But maybe this younger generation, the ones who are getting ready to get it in the neck with Obamacare, once they figure out what that’s all about, what it’s costing them, I’m hoping that they’ll rise up and say, “Enough is enough.”

AFAJ: What role can College of the Ozarks play in turning things around?
JD: Well, we are one of the colleges that filed suit against Obamacare. We don’t think the federal government’s got any business telling us how religious we are. I’m disappointed that so-called religious colleges all over the country didn’t all run out and file a lawsuit. If we object to something on moral or religious grounds, we think that should be respected. We think the Founding Fathers would have demanded that our religious rights be respected. 

AFAJ: Any other observations on how you see College of the Ozarks making an impact?
JD: I think we are counter-culture. We are very much going against the flow in the culture right now. We’re trying to take a leadership role to get people to consider what made America great. Educational institutions can have a lot of influence in keeping kids from throwing that away. We want to be one of those institutions that promote basic American values. 

AFAJ: How do we motivate others to take the same kind of stand?
JD: You never know where your influence is. I think of when I went off to Truett McConnell College, a little church college in north Georgia – 200 students, unaccredited – I never dreamed I’d be sitting here talking to you, or have any influence. Well, God is still in control. To motivate others may require something to awaken the country. I hope it’s not a financial collapse or a war; that’s typically what it takes to shake up this country and get people concerned about its direction. 

We need to find ways to object within the law and try to have a positive influence; we don’t want to just remain silent and watch America crumble. I see so many churches and schools going with the flow of the culture. I’ve always proposed to be in the culture, not of the culture. I don’t think we ought to just go along because of expediency or comfort – or because we don’t want to go to the trouble or be controversial. Who said it would be easy? It’s time to stand up and be counted.  undefined

Dr. Jerry Davis has written a number of books, two of which share an inspiring look at the history of his unique Hard Work U. Miracle in the Ozarks traces the school’s 108-year history. The Four Generals of Hard Work U introduces alumni who have served with distinction in the U.S. armed forces. The latter has been adapted for a stage play, which debuted on the campus in 2013. Books are available here or 417-334-6411. All proceeds benefit student programs at the college.