Back To The Classroom For CMU’s Larry Anderson

Admission director returns to academic work

Larry Anderson first came to Central Methodist University as a student, then returned as a faculty member and coach, so it's no surprise he enjoys the classroom. After a highly successful nine-year detour into Admission work, he's going back to class.

Anderson announced his decision to return to the CMU classroom as associate professor of physical education, effective in early August. He will leave his current post as director of the CMU Admission Department, a job he has held since 2005.

"I appreciate having a small part in the growth of CMU," Anderson reflected on his time leading the Admission program. "I'm anxious to get back to the front of the classroom."

During his career at Central, he has been a faculty member, athletics director, head and assistant football coach, tennis coach, and director of the Admission staff charged with student recruitment for the main campus in Fayette. Under Anderson's leadership, main campus enrollment set all-time Central records and has grown by more than 35 percent.

"Central owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Larry," CMU President Roger Drake said.  "Under his leadership, Central's enrollment has grown dramatically, allowing us to prepare greater numbers of students to make a difference in the world. Larry has brought an unparalleled level of professionalism to our Admission department".

CMU will soon begin a national search for Anderson's replacement, Drake added.

Anderson's transition back to academic life is especially meaningful to his supervisor Ken Oliver, CMU vice president of institutional growth and student engagement. Anderson recruited Oliver to play football for the Eagles back in the late 1980s and they have been colleagues and close friends ever since.

"Nine years ago, when I asked Larry to consider accepting the Director of Admissions position, the department was in need of a jump start," Oliver said. "He helped engineer a number of record setting enrollments. Our university has greater exposure and enjoys increased enrollment because of his efforts, and our Admission staff continues to recruit outstanding students."

Anderson's Central experience began 51 years ago as a freshman from Bolivar and member of the Eagle football, basketball and baseball teams. He starred for CMU for four seasons. Anderson's contributions to Eagle athletics were rewarded in 2006 with his induction into CMU's Hairston Hall of Fame.

After graduating in 1967, Anderson spent 14 years teaching and coaching in Marshfield, Mo. He moved to Springfield in 1981 for a teaching and coaching position at Glendale High School, but after just one year, Central called asking him to come back.

Anderson returned as a physical education teacher and assistant football coach. He became head coach a year later and remained in that capacity for 12 seasons, and a couple of years later did double duty after being promoted to Athletics Director. After stepping down from football he remained A.D. for a total of 12 years.

Actually, Anderson did quadruple duty. He continued to teach every year until 2005, and also coached the Central tennis teams when CMU still had an intercollegiate tennis program.

By 2005, Anderson realized it had gotten "to a point where I couldn't do it all," and had made up his mind to return to full-time teaching. He laughs when he recalls, "I never quite made it –this time, I plan on making it back to the classroom."

Oliver, who by then had returned to CMU and was responsible for the Admission department, and others at Central convinced him to apply for a vacancy heading the Admission program.

It was a challenging time. On campus enrollment had slipped by more than 13 percent over the previous decade, and six different individuals had led the Admission office during that time. Anderson knew full well he was in for "a different challenge" than teaching and coaching.

He set out to build a recruitment program and staff to reverse that trend. Anderson inherited three staff members who remain with him to this day: Braxton Rethwisch, Mary Hrdina, and Penny Shaw, and CMU experiences little of the turnover many institutions face.

"Like a lot of colleges, at that time Central typically hired young professionals right out of college and with no experience, who would stay a year or two and move on," Anderson said. "Morale was low at the time. We needed to get more organized, and to get – and keep – a good staff.

"One of the biggest things I think I did was to treat people with respect," he said. "I tried to make it a comfortable work environment, let the staff relax and do their jobs. We ask a lot of our people – they work long hours, are gone a lot, do a lot of evening and weekend work.

"But I always let them know that family is the most important thing," Anderson added. "We are like a family in the department."

That stability and experience within the department has paid big dividends for Central, and the mutual affection between Anderson and his team is obvious. "That will be the hardest part," he said, "leaving these great people."

But he won't go far, and he'll be there as a resource for his successor if and whenever needed. Anderson clearly is ready to "get back in front of the classroom, and hopefully I can help some of our students in a different way than convincing them to come to Central."

First, though, Anderson aims to "bring in a very good entering Class of 2014, meet our enrollment goals, and keep CMU on the move."


Posted February 12, 2014