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ACU Remembers: Don Drennan

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Don Drennan headshot
Don Drennan

Donald “Don” Drennan (’58), longtime Abilene Christian University administrator, Abilene City Council member and community servant, died Feb. 3, 2021, at age 85 following an extended illness.

Services honoring his life are planned Sunday at 1 p.m. at ACU’s Beauchamp Amphitheatre. A visitation with family will be Saturday from 5-7 p.m. at Piersall Funeral Directors (733 Butternut, Abilene, Texas 79601). The family requests guests wear face masks and observe physical distancing out of respect for others in attendance.

Born Altie Donald Drennan on Oct. 10, 1935, to A.O. and Grace Hunt Drennan, he was known as Don to his many friends, but always Donald to his mother and his wife, Rudith.

A 1954 graduate of Abilene High School, he was a member of the last class to attend school on the original North First Street campus. After earning his bachelor’s degree from ACU in 1958, he worked briefly in Midland for Shell Oil Co. before returning in 1960 as purchasing director at the university.

Drennan’s service to ACU and to Abilene was broad and deep, always focused on what he thought was right and treating everyone the same, regardless of title.

He became the university business manager in 1969, and completed a master’s degree while working full time. In 1972 he became assistant to the president for Dr. John C. Stevens (’38), forging a friendship that defined his role at Abilene Christian. Beginning in 1982, he served six years as associate professor of accounting. Even after becoming director of athletics in 1988, he continued to teach one freshman Introduction to Business course each semester – a gathering of more than 200 students he knew by name.

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Drennan was business manager for ACU in 1969 before becoming assistant to the president in 1972.
Drennan was business manager for ACU in 1969 before becoming assistant to the president in 1972.

“If you knew Don, he was your friend,” said Dr. Bill Petty (’64), professor emeritus of finance at Baylor University who was dean of ACU’s College of Business Administration early in Drennan’s classroom experience. “I will forever be blessed by Don’s giant-sized encouragement when we worked together at ACU. Whatever the task, it was just more fun doing it together. His singular motivation was always what was best for the university.”

A January blind date with an El Paso school teacher, Rudith Frazier (’65), led to their wedding, Aug. 5, 1977. The couple bought the Rafter T Ranch in Chimney Rock, Colorado, in 1982 and spent summers and holidays there with their children, eventually moving there for two years after Drennan’s first retirement in 1990.

Though he loved bailing hay, and the horses and Texas Longhorn cattle on the ranch, Drennan missed teaching and so they returned to ACU where he told a student reporter for The Optimist, “I teach for fun. I’ll only accept $1 as payment for each class I teach.”

Drennan originated the idea of and provided initial funding in 1999 for COBA’s STAR program, in which business students learn to research an investment portfolio and trade based on their information. Through the years, they have turned a $110,000 gift into a portfolio of more than $1.5 million, and the group helps manage a portion of the university’s endowment with guidance from ACIMCO (Abilene Christian Investment Management Company).

In 2000 he retired again to spend more time in support of numerous Christian organizations he and Rudith encouraged through the Frazier Foundation, which he served as treasurer. He was an ACU trustee from 1991-2010, including several years as board secretary.

In Abilene, Drennan was active with the Chamber of Commerce. He served on boards of directors for United Way; Abilene Christian Schools; Red Cross; Abilene Higher Education Authority; Big Brothers Big Sisters; Disability Resources, Inc. and as a longtime member of Abilene Rotary Club.

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Drennan taught large COBA classes in the Mabee Business Building in 1984.
Drennan taught large COBA classes in the Mabee Business Building in 1984.

As a City Council member from 1994-97, Drennan focused, as always, on what people needed. When the council considered discontinuing city bus service, he rode the busses himself and concluded they could not be closed because he met people who needed them to get to work. When the proposal was debated, he asked another council member who advocated for the closures, “When was the last time you rode a bus?”

After his retirement from ACU in 2000, Don looked for ways to leave the world a better place, so he and Rudith spent several school years in Parkersburg, West Virginia, home of Ohio Valley College. There he taught accounting and administered a grant for construction of a new science building named in his honor. They returned to Abilene in 2007 where he remained active with the Frazier Foundation, and at Highland Church of Christ where he has been a deacon, chair of the missions committee and an adult Bible class teacher.

At Don and Rudith’s alma mater, a generous gift from the Drennans made possible John C. and Ruth Stevens Park, a xeriscaped, contemplative half-acre space between Moody Coliseum and the entry of Wildcat Way, dedicated to the memory of ACU icons and their dear friends. Stevens Park is area is bisected by a paved path over which a Gameday procession of student-athletes, cheerleaders, band members and fans of all ages traverse in a tradition called Wildcat Walk each football Saturday when the team plays at home.

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Drennan’s early career was shaped by earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from ACU in 1958.
Drennan’s early career was shaped by earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from ACU in 1958.

“Don Drennan was a giant serving ACU and her students – wise, generous, hardworking and quietly giving his all to help young people grow and mature into outstanding citizens dedicated to honoring the Lord,” said Dr. Jack Griggs (’64), Overton Faubus Professor Emeritus of Business and also former dean when Drennan taught in COBA late in his career. “In my view, Don’s life epitomizes the unselfish, unsung heroes of the God-fearing, God-loving servants who have made ACU a world-class university.”

Don is survived by his wife Rudith, and by four children: James Donald Drennan (’90) and his wife, Shelley (’90); D’Ann McAlister (’90) and her husband, Stuart (’90); Daniel Drennan (’02) and his wife, Amber (Dunham ’04); and April Drennan and her husband, Beau Minkler. He is also survived by his sister, Deanna Baker (’64); nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests those wishing to honor his life do so through memorials to the A. Don Drennan Business Endowed Scholarship (ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132, bit.ly/ADonDrennan).

 
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