harding-mag-fall-cover-full-wrapThe fall 2016 magazine is coming your way very soon, and there’s a unique aspect to this issue — it’s the first time we’ve wrapped a picture around to the back cover.

From both inside and out, we are excited to share photos of the Ganus Activities Complex (formerly Ganus Athletic Center) highlighting the renovated, expanded and improved version of a campus mainstay. The facilities and equipment are truly impressive, and students are utilizing the much needed improvement to the recreation and wellness scene on campus.

In our other two features, Dr. Phil Thompson poignantly discusses the topics of suffering and death, and we share the stories of five staff members who play key behind-the-scenes roles on campus.

Homecoming’s alumni award winners are presented in more depth this year, and in our End Note, former Provost Larry Long gives advice to his successor.

Look for it in your mailbox and online soon. As always, let us know your thoughts.

Tom Buterbaugh, editor/designer



Two weeks ago, the Waldron Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business officially opened with a dedication ceremony Sept. 9. The center offers services to students and alumni who own small businesses and family businesses, and as someone who owns a small side business, I think the center is a great idea.

The center provides resources for students to focus on entrepreneurial academics and competitions as well as development of new business ideas. The space, which was recently renovated to accommodate those activities, includes worktables perfect for collaboration and a large, bright conference room.

Currently, the center is in the information-gathering phase, and they are seeking feedback from family owned businesses about issues that would be helpful to learn about and help achieve goals. This week, the center is promoting “hometown throwdown,” and they are asking the Harding community to submit names of businesses owned by University alumni for a chance to win prizes. The Waldron Center wants to write about alumni-owned businesses and feature success stories, but they need ideas.

The center provides students and alumni who have family businesses with a community of people to talk to and discuss business ideas. This network of conversation can really benefit business people with similar experiences and levels of operation and connect them with useful resources. Starting a business is hard work, and there are a number of steps to figure out. The Waldron Center is a place for idea generation and creation, and the staff can help guide you through the trenches of details and development. It’s a great addition to the Paul R. Carter College of Business Administration, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Hannah Owens, director of digital media


This morning, like most days, hundreds of students piled into the Benson Auditorium for daily chapel at 9 and 10 a.m. Like most days, students led songs, a prayer, a scripture and a devotional thought. But these students were a bit smaller than normal. Today, Harding Academy students led chapel.

Today is the National Day of Encouragement. It’s my favorite day of the year.

Chapel was led by Academy students who went on a summer trip to Nicaragua as members of Team Arkansas USA and played baseball and soccer against Nicaraguan teams.

“If you were to ask me about the highlight of my summer, right off the bat, I would say my trip to Nicaragua,” said Jayden Whilhite, who led the chapel devotional. “The most important thing for us to take away is: One, share with a smile on our face and grateful heart; two, thank God for everything, and be content; three, be loving, and be a servant; and four, go light our world.”

The idea for a Day of Encouragement began in June 2007 when Dr. Andrew Baker, director of the Mitchell Center for Leadership and Ministry, met with high school students at the National Leadership Forum. Baker broke the students into groups and had them discuss what they believed to be the biggest problem facing today’s high school students.

“A lot of them came back with different ideas, but one of those groups that day came back and said, ‘We acknowledge that there are lots of problems, but we think there’s something at the root of all of it — the amount of discouragement we feel every day,’” Baker said. “I said, ‘I agree with you, but what are you going to do about it?’ And they said, ‘What if we created a National Day of Encouragement?’”

The focus of the day is on surrounding others with love and encouragement. The theme for this year is “The Power of a Smile.” After the chapel devotional, Baker spoke to students about encouragement and the need to experience it and share it.

“A smile is the most universal gesture,” he said. “The National Day of Encouragement is not complicated. It’s really simple. It’s in your DNA — the need for it and the ability to give it. Just encourage.”



Baker urged the entire campus community to partake in the day and encourage someone. Students are writing notes of encouragement to others in the student center and sharing uplifting thoughts on social media.

Baker’s son, Isaac, led a prayer to close the devotional. “Please be with all my friends in Nicaragua,” he said, “and please help all these college kids to have a good day.”

Hannah Owens, director of digital media

Watching the waters rise as the rains continued to fall, I thought about all of the Harding students we have from South Louisiana. I know that such an historic flood will affect their families and create concern and confusion for the coming weeks and months.

I spoke to one student, and she told me that their family was affected and that “it’s pretty bad.” One of my coworkers has family and friends whose homes were completely flooded. A minister friend of mine in Baton Rouge said that the flood “created problems for so many of our members.” Another friend in Alabama told me that their church was going to raise funds and send supplies down.

We have all seen pictures on the news and Facebook of the disaster relief efforts, and I’m so thankful that God is directing so many people and supplies to help out. My prayer, and I’m sure yours, too, is that God will work through this and that those affected will find the help and relief they need. One way to help is to contact the South Baton Rouge Church of Christ. They are coordinating an effort to help as many as possible in their area and can be reached at 225-927-4673 or through their website www.sbrcc.org.

Morris Seawel, senior advancement officer

As we continued our “Looking for Wilberforce” trip, we left Oxford the next morning and drove 50 miles north to Olney. This lovely little English town was, for 16 years (1764-79), the home of John Newton. Newton is best known in history as the writer of what is probably the most beloved hymn in the English-speaking world, “Amazing Grace.”


The former captain of a slave ship, Newton later become one of the most influential spiritual leaders of his day. Metaxas describes Newton as a defining influence in the life of William Wilberforce, first when Wilberforce was a child and even more significantly during what Wilberforce would call “the great change.”

Newton ministered for the parish church in Olney from 1764 until 1779. It was during this time that he became good friends with Wilberforce’s uncle and aunt, William and Hannah Wilberforce, who lived near London. Following the death of Wilberforce’s father and the illness of his mother, he went to live with his “Uncle William” and “Aunt Hannah” in Wimbledon. It was here that young Wilberforce became acquainted with some of the greatest and most devout spiritual leaders of his day. Among them was the former-slaver-turned-minister Newton, who was in his 40s during the time that Wilberforce lived with his aunt and uncle between the ages of 9 and 12. Metaxas speculates, “It was he who would have given little Wilberforce his first knowledge of slavery” (p. 7).


The greatest impact that Newton seems to have had on Wilberforce happened many years later. By that time, Newton had left Olney and had moved to London to work with the Church of St. Mary Woolnoth. 1775 was the year of what Wilberforce came to call “the great change.” It was the year when he transformed from a self-indulgent son of privilege into a serious disciple of Jesus, intent on giving his life to the will of God. Metaxas chronicles this year of spiritual crisis and relates the details of a transformative meeting between the 26-year-old Wilberforce and the 60-year-old Newton on Dec. 7, 1785.

Wilberforce must have poured out his heart now to the one person who might understand his anguish and his difficult choices. But as so often is the case, Wilberforce discovered what he had so terribly feared as a chimera, nothing as bad as he had thought. Newton didn’t tell him what he had expected — that to follow God he would have to leave politics. On the contrary, Newton encouraged Wilberforce to stay where he was, saying that God could use him there. (Metaxas, p. 59)

The words “God could use him there [Parliament[” set the course for the remainder of the life of Wilberforce. The old slave ship captain gave wise counsel to the distressed young politician that day, and the story of the fight against the British slave trade was forever changed.



I’ve long been thankful for Newton because of the power that the words to “Amazing Grace” have had on my own life. But during our time in Olney, my gratitude had a different focus. On that day, I was most grateful for the counsel, encouragement, comfort and direction that he gave to Wilberforce. He called him to remain in Parliament and engage the great struggles of his day, and he assured him that “God could use him there.” Thank you, John Newton!

Final stop: Kingston upon Hull

Bruce McLarty
London, England
August 7, 2016


I was reading Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas when I learned that the journals, letters and other important papers from the pen of William Wilberforce could be found today in the rare books and manuscripts section of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Seeking every potential connection with Wilberforce, I began exploring the possibility of viewing these original documents and perhaps even holding them in my hands. Jean Waldrop, director of the Harding University Brackett Library, assisted me stateside, and I corresponded about this matter with Colin Harris at the Bodleian Library via email. They both helped me to get a good idea of what sorts of materials were in the Wilberforce collection.

Wilberforce 3-2

Our very busy first day in England was spent seeing four different Wilberforce sites. Then, on the morning of our second day, we rented a car and drove to Oxford. Arriving in the early afternoon, we quickly moved into our hotel in town and then headed to the Bodleian Library. When we arrived at the library, which is actually a collection of libraries, I was directed across the street to a building where I could apply for a reader’s card. I walked up to the desk, mentioned that I had been in correspondence with Mr. Harris, and asked if I could speak with him. The receptionist called his office and then reported back to me that Mr. Harris had taken a tea break. They then led me to the office where I was taken through the process of obtaining a reader’s card. After that, I put my bag in a locker, went through security again, and was directed upstairs to find Mr. Harris. (I ought to take the opportunity at this point to acknowledge that everyone in this entire process could not have been more kind and helpful.)

By the time I arrived in the rare books reading room, Mr. Harris had returned from tea. He was exactly as I had pictured him through his emails, a man perfectly made to work in a reference room. Mr. Harris spends his days helping students locate the materials they are searching for while he calmly maintains the decorum and care of the manuscripts such a place requires. In short, he was tremendously helpful to me and very patient with my lack of knowledge concerning the everyday processes of his reading room.

Mr. Harris helped me locate the index of the Wilberforce collection and then showed me how to fill out a rare book request form. It was about 3:45 p.m. when he told me that if I would submit my requests by 4 p.m., then the materials would be delivered to me at 5 that same afternoon. I quickly followed his instructions and submitted the forms. Then, at 5 p.m., I walked to the desk and was handed four packets of William Wilberforce materials. The moment was surreal. I could not believe what I was holding in my hands!

Wilberforce 4

For the next hour, I was lost in a world of Wilberforce. I was holding his journals, reading his handwriting, feeling the texture of the sheets of paper on which he wrote, and sitting enveloped in the musty smell of old documents — perhaps even the smell of his writing desk. Some of the items I read were as mundane as a shopping list while others were as sublime as this reformer’s spiritual journals. Metaxas writes about how severely critical Wilberforce was with himself, and I noted that on several of the entries I read in the spiritual journals, Wilberforce began with the words “Alas! Alas!”

Wilberforce 2-2

I only read the Wilberforce papers for about an hour because I knew that I couldn’t begin to do justice to their study in the short time I had that day. And I knew that the Brackett Library has obtained digital and microfilm copies of this same material for the students and faculty of Harding University to use this year as part of Harding Read 2016. This was simply a visit to see the originals with my own eyes and to hold them in my own hands. On my journey looking for Wilberforce, this was a most incredible day!

Next stop: Olney

Bruce McLarty
London, England
August 6, 2016




The start of the school year is quickly approaching, and knowing practical things to survive college is a must. We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks from Harding students, Harding alumni offered advice, too.

Invest in a quality rain jacket and rain boots.

The rain seems to fall the hardest when you’re walking to and from classes. An umbrella might seem like a good idea, but when the wind picks up and puddles reach your ankles, you’ll think otherwise.

Be prepared in case you get sick.

You’re staying up late, drinking lots of soda in the cafeteria, and taking advantage of the unlimited French fries. You might get sick adjusting to a new living environment. Sophomore Matthew Swann can attest.

“Be prepared to get sick the first several weeks if the dorm life is really new to you and not an environment you’re used to. It happened to me last year, and it was bad — allergies, coughing, sneezing and runny, itchy nose!” -Swann

Make a checklist of things to help you through your sickness — Emergen-C, Gatorade, crackers and Alka-Seltzer tabs. If you can’t manage your sickness with those go-to items, Student Health Services is free to students and is a frequented and appreciated place by many.

Scott White offered advice if you find yourself needing a prescription filled.

“Figure out a pharmacy and file insurance information before you need a prescription. It is no fun to deal with the paperwork when you are sick. Some pharmacies offer delivery.” – White (’92)

Budget your DCB and use your meal plan.

It’s going to be tempting to eat Chick-fil-A for lunch every day. You’ll definitely want to start every morning off with a bagel and coffee from Einstein’s, but learn to budget your DCB. Your end-of-semester self will thank you.

The average amount of DCB for a freshman is $250. With 16 weeks in the semester, that’s around $15 a week. That’s a Chick-fil-A sandwich and waffle fries for lunch and a couple of bagels and cups of coffees for breakfast. Depending on your love for chicken biscuits, that’s also a chicken biscuit every morning after chapel.

To hold yourself accountable, have friends who you meet up with for lunch and dinner everyday. Go to the cafeteria together, and make sure you’re keeping your DCB in check. Even better, mark a day in the week — for instance, DCB Tuesday — and get Chick-fil-A or Panda Express with your friends.

Also, don’t forget to use your cafeteria swipes. You pay for those; don’t let them go to waste.

Don’t spend too much on your dorm decorations, and don’t over pack.

Pinterest packing lists and decoration ideas are great, but remember that everything you carry up to your dorm room at the beginning of the year has to come back down — and then some.

Throughout the year, you’ll accumulate a lot of stuff, and you’ll wonder how it all got there. It happens to everyone — don’t worry. Start with a small amount of things so as the year progresses you’ll have space available to put stuff.

Some of those packing lists are too extensive. Unless you’re running a business from your dorm room, you’re not going to need that Vera Bradley desk organizing set. Go without it. You’ll save money and space. Check out this Harding packing list: bit.ly/HU_Pack.

Use the GAC gym, and don’t buy a gym membership off campus.

Off-campus gym memberships are expensive! The average gym membership cost is $40 a month. That’s $40 you could spend on a day trip to Memphis or on a concert ticket.

With the expansion of the Ganus Athletic Complex, there is no need to go off-campus for your daily workout. Stay on campus, and save yourself $40.

Don’t forget about the little things.

Check out of the dorm, and check in with your parents.

“Checkout if you are going home for the weekend. Call your parents once a week. And love every minute.” -Susan Leibovich, Harding parent

“Call or write home at least once a week. Your parents want to know the little silly everyday things that are going on.” -Deanna Brooks (’66)

“Find friends that match your ambition and academic goals. Find friends that love the Lord and want to make him known.” -Charles Pappas (’97)

Don’t forget to have fun.

So many people say their years at Harding are the best of their lives, and that’s so true. Have fun, and enjoy your time at Harding.

Kaleb Turner, public relations intern

McLarty churchAfter we finished our encounter with the Sir Thomas Lawrence portrait of William Wilberforce in the National Portrait Gallery, we hired a cab and asked the driver to take us to the Holy Trinity Church in Clapham. The neighborhood in which this historic (1776) church still stands now has its own stop on the London Tube. When we arrived at the church to continue our search for connections with William Wilberforce, we got that feeling you get when you enter a run-down neighborhood for the first time, and you aren’t exactly sure how safe it is for you to be there. However, there were plenty of people on the streets, and we could see people of all ages sitting in the park next to the church. We walked up to the building and pushed the buzzer on the door but received no answer. As we continued our walk around the building, we met a group of people who were coming out of a basement classroom where they had been attending their regular AA meeting. The room, we later discovered, is very fittingly named “The Wilberforce Center.” One of the gentlemen in the group was very kind and helpful and offered to help us find an open door. After having no success with locating an unlocked door, I used my cell phone to call the number on the church sign. A young woman answered the phone and came downstairs to open the door. She confessed that she didn’t know much about Mr. Wilberforce, but she graciously proceeded to show us around the building.

The first Wilberforce connection she pointed out was a beautiful stained-glass window that depicts Wilberforce as a man in green trousers and distinctive yellow stockings. He is surrounded by enslaved Africans, and he holds a copy of what appears to be the bill abolishing the slave trade. The wording on the stained glass states, “Before my Father which is in heaven, The Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee.”

Mclarty windowThe second recognition of Wilberforce at the church is a small blue medallion above the front door from the Greater London Council that recognizes William Wilberforce and “The Clapham Sect” for their work in abolishing slavery in the British Empire.

McLarty engravingThe final recognition of Wilberforce at the Holy Trinity Church is a large engraved stone that is part of the outside wall of the church. It is significantly scarred, and we were told that the damage had been inflicted by Nazi bombings during World War II.

McLarty.ClaphamThe Clapham Sect

Who in the latter part of the 18th and early part of the 19th centuries labored so abundantly for national righteousness and the conversion of the heathen, and rested not until the curse of slavery was swept away from all parts of the British Dominions

Eight names are listed alphabetically, the final one being William Wilberforce.

The “Clapham Sect” once lived in this neighborhood and attended this church. They were constantly in one another’s homes and sometimes even lived in the same houses. They challenged and inspired one another to continue the work of abolishing the slave trade and, eventually, the institution of slavery, itself. I came to Holy Trinity Church in Clapham looking for William Wilberforce. What I discovered was evidence of a community. The work of Wilberforce was not accomplished in isolation. He was part of a church community that faithfully stood with him as he fought slavery for 47 long, grueling years. He was not alone.

Next stop: Oxford’s Bodleian Library

Bruce McLarty
London, England
August 5, 2016

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New beginnings have been trademarks of his summer so far, but being a supportive dad from the stands at his sons’ baseball games comes first.

Dr. Jeff Mercer was named dean of the College of Pharmacy in April and began his role on June 1 when Dr. Julie Hixson-Wallace, the previous dean, moved into her new role as vice provost for accreditation.

“The most pleasant surprise of this transition has been the support of friends and colleagues,” Mercer said. “It really has seemed like everybody is pulling for me, and personally that means a lot to me.”

Mercer has been able to witness department- and campus-wide change. From watching his predecessor move into her new role to seeing new hires within the College of Pharmacy, Mercer said it’s been a whirlwind.

“It seems like transition is everywhere, and I’m a part of a lot of transition that is going on,” Mercer said. “Once you’re in the midst of change with a positive attitude, you begin to look around and see so much opportunity. There is so much room for meaningful engagement, and I think that is something that people are excited about.”

Amid all the change, Mercer still finds time for family, friends and fishing. Earlier this summer, Mercer and Executive Vice President David Collins spent an afternoon fishing on Crooked Creek, which Mercer said is something he has wanted to do since he moved to Arkansas. Outside of fishing, Mercer spends time with his three sons, devoting much travel and many hot summer days to baseball.

“We just got back from Laurel, Mississippi, where my youngest son was playing in the Dixie Youth World Series,” Mercer said. “The other two made it to the state tournaments with their teams, so that’s really driven a big part of my summer.”

As the school year nears, Mercer’s focus turns to the students and the possibilities for success and service among students and faculty within the College of Pharmacy.

“I think pharmacy is one of the greatest professions ever, and I think the students who make a choice to be a pharmacist are choosing a great profession and one that holds the public’s trust,” Mercer said. “We’re one of the most trusted professions in the United States, and as such, I think Harding is well positioned to lead in that area being a faith-based university with a mission mindset. I hope our students realize that great responsibility and opportunity.”

To pharmacy students, Mercer urges making the most of their time at Harding by taking advantage of all that is offered and making deliberate decisions about the future.

“I look back at my time as a pharmacy student, and it was my opportunity to set the tone for the rest of my life,” Mercer said. “I would just encourage students to see their time here in the College of Pharmacy as a great opportunity and to take their time seriously and make meaningful choices about their future.”

With just two weeks until students start class for the 2016-17 school year, Mercer said he’s eager to begin the year and see students back on campus and in the classrooms.

“It’s never a burden for me to wake up in the morning and come to work here in the College of Pharmacy,” Mercer said. “That helps me to know I’m doing the right thing, and it speaks volumes about our incredible faculty, staff and students here in the College of Pharmacy and Harding.”

Kaleb Turner, public relations intern


After we left Westminster Abbey, Ann and I walked north on Whitehall up to Trafalgar Square. Our mission was to locate the 1828 oil on canvas Wilberforce portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence. After a false start when we entered the National Gallery instead of the National Portrait Gallery, we finally found our way to the correct entrance. As an added bonus, the Portrait Gallery is free.

It took us awhile to find the Wilberforce painting, but we finally located it in a room dedicated to 18th-century social reformers. As we turned the corner, there he was! I don’t know if you feel this way or not, but to me portraits are not like other artwork; portraits look back. Eyes meet eyes, and you take the measure of one another. So, there I was looking at what Sir Thomas Lawrence saw when he looked at Wilberforce in 1828. The painting was never completed, so it almost appears as though a spotlight is shining on the face of the man who led the campaign to abolish the Slave Trade in Great Britain.

Looking at the face in the painting, I was reminded of so many personal details that Metaxas shared in his “painting” of Wilberforce in Amazing Grace. Here are but a few:

  • Wilberforce was “tiny and stood just over five feet with a child-sized torso.” (p. 43).
  • He suffered from ulcerative colitis his entire life. (p. 43).
  • He was “greatly renowned for his singing voice.” (p. 29).
  • He was once called “the wittiest man in all of England.” (p. 28).
  • He was highly regarded for his “intelligence, charm and wit.” (p. 21).
  • He had extremely poor eyesight. (p. 55).

Mextaxas’ most extensive physical description of Wilberforce is set in 1807, the year the Slave Trade was abolished: “His always frail body, which had been wracked with pain and discomfort ever since he could remember, was the body of someone much further along in years. The constant doses of opium pushed on him by his doctors for his ulcerative colitis had taken their toll on his eyes, and the curvature of his spine and the telltale slump of his head that would mark him in later years were already discernible. He’d entered Parliament as a boy of twenty-one, fresh from the bright green lawns of Cambridge — but how the years and battles had aged him.” (p. 205)

As I looked into the eyes of Wilberforce (actually looking through Sir Thomas Lawrence’s eyes as he looked into the eyes of Wilberforce), the thing that most impressed me was that he did not look coldhearted, distant, broken or bitter. Even after decades of staring unflinchingly into the hellish realities of the Slave Trade and after facing endless defeats in Parliament, Wilberforce remained a kind, caring, even playful husband and father. All the harsh realities of his life had failed to harden his heart. There was still room for joy, for love, for family and for God.

Does all of this show in the eyes of a man like Wilberforce? I don’t know. But as I continue “looking for Wilberforce,” I think I found a bit of him in a painting in the British Portrait Gallery.

Next stop: Clapham.

Bruce McLarty
London, England
August 5, 2016

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