Branson, MO Part III: College of the Ozarks
College of the Ozarks is located only a few miles from the Escapees Turkey Creek RV Park where we were staying. College of the Ozarks provides a Christian-based, liberal arts education to students who are academically capable, but financially unable to attend a public or private institution. All full-time students work at one of 80 campus jobs or industries to pay for part of his or her education. The balance of the cost is provided by contributions from donors. Although students pay no tuition, there is a charge for room, board, and other student fees. Students can pay these charges themselves or work at the college during the summer if they can't afford them. We can see why the college calls itself "Hard Work U."
One of the campus industries is the bakery. Now, many people make fun of fruitcake, but we (especially Margery) actually like good fruitcake, and the fruitcake made by the College of the Ozarks bakery is exceptionally good. The college has been famous for its fruitcake since the 1930s. We picked some up during our first visit to the Branson area a couple of years ago, and we made the bakery one of our first stops this trip.
The School of the Ozarks was originally founded in 1906 as a high school by James Forsythe, a young Presbyterian missionary to the area. In 1956, a two-year junior college program was added. The junior college was expanded to a four-year college in 1965, and the high school was phased out. In 1990, the name was changed from School of the Ozarks to College of the Ozarks.
Since the college was so close and since we had a little more time during this stop in Branson, we went to the college campus several times. One of the times was on September 11 when they had a brief service to remember those who lost their lives in the attacks in New York, Washington, D. C. and Shanksville, PA. They had 2,966 flags (one for each victim) forming the numerals "9-11" on the lawn outside the Alumni Center.
A student member of the ROTC and a firefighter stood watch.
The next photo shows a group of grade school students, EMTs, firefighters, and police who participated in the ceremony. Although the ceremony only lasted about 15 minutes, it was very moving.
After the ceremony, we toured the campus. Our first stop was at the Williams Memorial Chapel. Dedicated in 1958, the chapel, built of native limestone with student labor, is an example of neo-gothic architecture.
The stained glass windows in the chapel are beautiful. Most of the glass was imported from Austria.
Behind the chapel is Point Lookout with a view of the Ozarks in the distance.
Another of the college enterprises is the Edwards Mill where students grind grain to make whole-wheat flour. Upstairs, there is a weaving studio where students produce rugs, shawls, and placemats on traditional looms. Students also use the building for basket weaving. Proceeds from the sale of all the crafts and products made by the students go to help offset the cost of tuition.
The college greenhouses are located next to the mill. The greenhouses are home to the 7,000-plant orchid collection originally belonging to Clint McDade who was one of the school's first students. The greenhouses also produce plants for sale like this orchid...
... or this variety of ornamental pepper called Black Pearl.
Paul also liked the banana plants. Notice the tiny bananas on the stalk on the lower left with the pink blossom at the top.
The College of the Ozarks is also the home of the Ralph Foster Museum. The museum was started in the basement of a boys' dorm in the 1920s and has grown to take over the entire building, and then some. There were three later additions to the building so the museum now has over 40,000 square feet of exhibit space plus 20,000 square feet of office, storage, and library space.
The museum is named for Ralph Foster, who began a career as a radio pioneer in the area in the 1920s. Ralph Foster became interested in the museum in the 1960s and donated to the museum an extensive collection of western and Native American artifacts. After the donation of his collection and his funding of the museum's third addition, the museum was renamed in Ralph Foster's honor.
The primary focus of the museum is to collect, preserve, and exhibit items relating to the history of the Ozarks. One of the most popular items is the original truck used in the television series The Beverly Hillbillies. Paul Henning, creator of the series, got his inspiration for the story from a Boy Scout camping trip to the Ozarks. The series ran for 9 seasons from 1962 to 1971 with 274 episodes.
The college has an extensive tractor collection housed in a separate facility that we didn't visit, and they also had a couple of examples on display at the Ralph Foster Museum. Paul thought the one on the left, which is an International Harvester 8-16 Series produced until 1922, was unusual-looking.
Being a quilter, Margery was interested in the quilt collection. This one was particularly notable because it combines two of her favorite hobbies into one. The quilt includes squares that are cross-stitched.
As we said, the primary focus of the museum is on the Ozarks, but they have a variety of other items including collections of firearms, insects, art, and minerals. The museum also has a collection of birds and animals in the natural history section. Paul tried to imagine what it would be like to be confronted by a real 9-foot tall polar bear.
On another day, we stopped back at the college for lunch. The Keeter Center was built in 2004 and is located at the entrance to the campus. In addition to a restaurant, the Keeter Center also houses a lodge, a conference center, a gift shop, and the college's Center for Character Education. The Keeter Center provides many employment opportunities for the students, especially those studying to get a degree in hotel and restaurant management.
The building is a replica of Dobyns Hall that stood on the campus where the chapel is now located. Dobyns Hall burned in 1930. It was originally the Maine State building from the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis. The school bought the log structure after the fair, dismantled it, and moved it to the campus where it became the school's first building.
The Keeter Center lodge has 15 luxury suites that are available for nightly rental. The next photo shows the lobby where you can see some of the guest rooms on the upper balconies.
But we were at the Keeter Center because of the restaurant. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and brunch on Sundays. We had a hard time deciding what we wanted because they have an extensive menu and everything sounded good. Margery finally chose a grilled chicken sandwich with boursin cheese on foccacia bread and Paul ordered a salmon burger with capers and cilantro-lime mayonnaise. As you can tell from the description of what we ordered, this place will not likely be featured on our favorite Food Network program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. In the next photo, we are waiting for lunch to arrive.
Both our sandwiches were excellent, as was the dessert called Chocolate Paradise we shared. Lunch at the Keeter Center was an outstanding ending to our visit to Branson. We enjoyed our stay in Branon so much we are thinking about returning again next year.
From Branson, we headed farther south. We'll tell you where we ended up in our next post.