America is full of liberal arts colleges, some good and some bad, some, if not most very liberal and some conservative, but there is only one that has the perseverance to persistently embrace the character and values that make Branson and the Ozarks so special. That college, has both the heart of a leader and of a servant and has at all times been a beacon for quality education, character development, a strong work ethic, the American spirit and values and faith in God. That college is the College of the Ozarks (C of O).
Quality education and character have been a persistent part of C of O since its inception and has been recognized nationally many times. “Since 1989, the College has been named one of the Top Tier Liberal Arts Colleges in the Midwest and one of the ‘Best Buys’ in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report magazine each year. C of O has also been named to the Templeton Honor Roll for Character Building Colleges and to the Templeton Honor Roll for Excellence in Free Enterprise Teaching. In addition, C of O has been listed as a ‘Best Buy’ by Barron’s Guide and Money Magazine, a ‘Best Value’ by The Princeton Review and has been recognized by numerous other national publications.”
The College of the Ozarks was founded as the School of the Ozarks (S of O) in 1906 by the Missouri Synod of the Presbyterian Church under the urging and guidance of the Reverend James Forsythe. Its mission was to provide a “Christian education for youth of both sexes, especially those found worth, but who are without sufficient means to procure such training.” From its founding until 1956 that education was solely a high school education primarily directed toward children in the Ozarks Plateau region.
In 1956 S of O added a two year junior college program to the high school program which was expanded into a four year liberal arts college in 1964. Its last high school class graduated in 1967, the same year as it graduated its first college class. With the addition of facilities, faculty, areas of study and a more geographically diversified student base the School of the Ozarks became the College of the Ozarks (C of ) in 1990.
Yet, even as it has grown, C of O has demonstrated a persistent determination to remain faithful to the development of character not only in their students, but in our area’s youth. One example of that commitment is a local program called “First PLACE!” which stands for Partners Linking Arms for Character Education.
In August of 2005 the Ole Seagull wrote, “The program is elegant in its operational simplicity. Each month of the school year, the schools emphasize and intentionally teach one character trait. That trait will be constantly reinforced during the month not only at school but throughout the community as ‘partners,’ and family reinforce the trait by committing to demonstrate one visible action each month that ties into the trait.” Thanks to the perseverance of C of O, area businesses, schools, families and others who have cared enough about the development of the character of our area’s children tens of thousands of those children have repetitively had their minds filled with positive character traits that can forever change their lives.
The Ole Seagulls favorite verse of scripture is, “Whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, of excellence, or worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” He would take this opportunity to thank the College of the Ozarks for over a century of doing just that as it provides one of the finest educations available in America and for having the vision, leadership, perseverance and caring enough about the children of our community for providing the catalyst that united our community in starting and continuing “First PLACE!”