Barry McNamara  |  Published March 27, 2024

Incoming President an Experienced Higher Ed Leader

Patricia Draves has been a vice president, president in the 18 years since she left the Monmouth faculty.

Patricia Draves and her husband, Jeff, who is a 1985 graduate of the College, served together on the College&... Patricia Draves and her husband, Jeff, who is a 1985 graduate of the College, served together on the College's chemistry faculty during their first stint in Monmouth. MONMOUTH, Ill. – The first time that Patricia Draves worked at Monmouth College, she set up her chemistry lab in the Haldeman-Thiessen Science Center, a building named for a pair of legendary chemistry professors who began teaching at the College in 1918 and 1930, respectively.

So when Draves, who was announced today as the 15th president of Monmouth College, talks about the school’s “heritage,” she does so from a position of experience. And William Haldeman and Garrett Thiessen aren’t the only legendary chemistry professors who influenced her career in higher education.

“The heritage of Monmouth is deep and rich, and the values have been enduring since the beginning,” said Draves, who taught at Monmouth from 2002-06 before leaving to take an administrative role at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio. “Education changes, the world’s needs change, and Monmouth is making sure their students are prepared for today and for jobs we don’t even yet know.”

One such change that happened after Draves and her husband – 1985 Monmouth graduate Jeff Draves, who is also a former Monmouth chemistry professor – left for Ohio was the construction of the $42 million Center for Science and Business, which replaced “H-T.” But the necessary changes go beyond building or renovating facilities.

“The curriculum is constantly under review to make sure that the Monmouth of today is meeting students’ needs and society’s needs,” said Draves. “Part of the tradition of Monmouth is making transformational changes and meeting those needs. Whether that’s through outstanding facilities and classroom experiences, or through curriculum and dedicated faculty, the mission hasn’t changed. Monmouth will always make sure that we have those things.”

A proven record of success

At Mount Union, where she served as dean and vice president for academic affairs, Draves was the driving force behind such changes for more than a decade. She led the establishment of its first graduate education programs and promoted and oversaw the development of three academic centers and 14 new undergraduate programs. She also steered the adoption of a new general education program and led efforts to increase experiential learning and establish a campuswide scholar day to celebrate students’ research.

In 2017, she became the 18th president of Graceland University, overseeing work in those areas, and beyond.

“I’ve done this before at a rural, liberal arts college,” she said. “At Graceland, when I got there, my method was to take the holistic approach, first identifying the needs of the campus and then taking a strategic approach.”

Draves said she needed to get a sense of all the university’s elements, then assess how they worked together.

“All of those things need to align – a strong, student-centered curriculum that will help prepare them, but is also fiscally responsible for the university,” she said. “So making sure that all of those things are integrated is a big lesson I’ve learned at Graceland. I’m looking forward to bringing those lessons to Monmouth.”

Monmouth mentors

It was at Monmouth where the seed was planted with Draves to pursue the path she’s been on for the better part of two decades. She particularly credited two individuals – beloved chemistry professor the late Richard “Doc” Kieft and former Monmouth president Richard Giese, who was the College’s 12th president from 1997–2005.

Richard “Doc” Kieft “was a major part of the reason we came back to Monmouth to teach here as a couple. I had the honor of working with him day in and day out. He encouraged us to go out and be leaders in higher education. He continued, until his passing, to have a major impact on our lives.”

When Jeff Draves was a Monmouth student in the early 1980s, Kieft was one of his mentors. Once his wife joined the faculty, she, too, found a mentor in Kieft.

“He was a major part of the reason we came back to Monmouth to teach here as a couple,” said Draves. “I had the honor of working with him day in and day out. He encouraged us to go out and be leaders in higher education. He continued, until his passing, to have a major impact on our lives.”

Draves was also mentored by Giese, so much so that she soon followed him to Ohio.

“Dick Giese’s mentorship has been very important to me,” she said. “He gave me some opportunities as a faculty member, whether that was to serve on senior leadership team searches or major committees. I thought that was such a great opportunity for a young faculty member.”

That mentor relationship grew even stronger in Ohio.

“He was a close mentor there and I learned from him,” said Draves. “He gave me a lot more opportunities. He strongly encouraged me to go out and seek out a presidency when the time came, and that’s how I ended up serving at Graceland. We’ve maintained a good friendship over the years.”

“Dick Giese’s mentorship has been very important to me. …We’ve maintained a good friendship over the years.”

Being a senior administrator was a path Draves hadn’t considered when she first entered academia as a chemistry professor at the University of Central Arkansas.

“I have a passion for science and a passion for teaching and helping students learn sciences and develop themselves,” she said. “I never envisioned being a college president. But the opportunity to serve more students by leading an institution is really the reason why I pursued a presidency – to have a bigger impact on their lives and to shape the world that they go out and serve.”

Draves is proud of her accomplishments at Mount Union and Graceland, but she’s eager to come “home” to Monmouth and apply what she’s learned to the nationally ranked liberal arts college when her presidency begins in July.

“We did some amazing things over the last seven years at Graceland with the community,” she said. “But the opportunity to serve Monmouth and come back home to a place that has meant so much for all of our family was just an opportunity I had to take advantage of. To think about the needs of Monmouth as we move into the future and some of my experiences that I’ve learned from at Graceland that can translate – it was a no-brainer to seek out the opportunity. It’s such a blessing and honor to be selected as the 15th president.”

Listen Up …

Patricia Draves discusses what attracted her to the Monmouth College presidency on a special extra episode of “Monmouth College Conversations” podcast.

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