Dr. Patricia H. Draves will become the 18th president of Graceland University. Dr. Harry J. Ashenhurst, chairman of the university Board of Trustees, made the announcement after an intensive search process that lasted eight months. Draves is currently Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio. Draves will replace Dr. John Sellars, who will retire after 10 years as Graceland president.
“Dr. Draves is an excellent fit for Graceland at this time,” Ashenhurst commented. Her philosophy of education, “steeped in the Christian tradition,” as she wrote in her letter of application, aligns well with Graceland’s own. Ashenhurst praised her very strong academic and administrative experience. “She knows the university system inside and out,” he said, "and we look forward to working with her to chart a clear course for Graceland’s future.”
Draves earned a PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois and received a Post-Doctoral Fellowship from the University of Texas-Austin. She began her teaching career at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, where she became Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies. In 2002, she accepted a teaching position at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, and later served as director of its biochemistry program. In 2006, she assumed her current position as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Mount Union.
Draves has been married to her husband, Jeffrey Draves, for 27 years. Jeff, a physical, computational and environmental chemist, serves as the chair of the department of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mount Union. They have twin boys, William and Benjamin, who are both students at private liberal arts universities.
In regards to the announcement of her new role, Draves said, "I am extremely honored to have the opportunity to serve Graceland as its next president. Jeff and I have found the Graceland community to be welcoming, passionate and committed to students. We are excited to work with the many dedicated members of the greater Lamoni and Independence communities, alumni, Community of Christ and friends of Graceland."
The search for a new president began last spring with the announcement of Sellars’ retirement plans. Ashenhurst appointed Dr. Kay Mussell, retired Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at American University, to head a search committee. The university hired the firm of AGB Search to assist in the process.
The committee reviewed the resumes from a strong field of around 30 applicants. They selected six for private off-campus interviews to protect applicants’ privacy. From that smaller group, they selected three finalists.
The candidates met with leaders of Community of Christ, Graceland administrators, faculty, staff, students and community members at both the Lamoni and Independence campuses. Ashenhurst commends the Graceland community for its critical participation in the process. He noted that turnout at interview sessions was very strong “with thoughtful and insightful questions.” He was especially pleased with the strong student engagement in the selection process.
The search committee solicited evaluations through confidential online surveys and compiled those responses. On Friday, the committee carefully reviewed all the data from the surveys and submitted its recommendation to the trustees. The committee met with the full board on Saturday morning, evaluating each candidate, explaining their decision and answering questions. The trustees approved the committee recommendation and offered Draves the position.
“I commend the search committee for setting the gold standard for presidential searches,” Ashenhurst stated. “They brought to campus three very strong candidates, any one of whom would make an outstanding president.” Ashenhurst also expressed appreciation to the two campuses for their robust participation in the candidate interviews. “Your input was a critical piece of the evaluation,” he noted.
Draves will arrive on campus this spring and orient herself to Lamoni and Independence and university administration before assuming her presidential duties on June 15. Dr. Sellars will continue with Graceland until July 15.