Bruce McLarty

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943487_10151446964111658_450188021_nYesterday, Dr. Bruce McLarty completed his second year as president of Harding University. Two years ago on the last day of May in 2013, then-president David Burks ceremoniously handed over the presidential office key to McLarty as he officially stepped into his new leadership role June 1. I sat down with President McLarty to ask a few questions about his own reflections of the past year and his anticipation for the future.

HU: What are some of your favorite moments from your second year as president?
Pres: As you might expect, I scrolled back through my Twitter account of the past year to be reminded of all the things that took place. I was amazed all over again by how many exciting, wonderful and important things can take place in a single calendar year. If I had to narrow all of that down to three events, they would be the gift of the new scoreboard by the 1959 Bison football team, the visit of Archie Manning to campus, and the ASI and chapel presentations by Dr. Kent Brantley. I could talk for hours about how special each of those events were.

HU: What was something you learned in your second year?
Pres: I’ve often used a sports metaphor to describe an important aspect of my second year. Second year NFL quarterbacks often speak of how “the game slows down.” What they mean is that they are able to see things more clearly after that first year. I certainly feel that “the game has slowed down for me.” The pace is the same, but I am now able to notice and pay attention to things that I missed the first year when everything was new. Because of that, I learned in the second year a lot about which things are most important for me to do and which things are not so important.

HU: If you could go back and give yourself a piece of advice as you start thesecond year, what would it be?
Pres: Somewhere along the way this year, I have tried to take the words “I’m afraid that . . .” out of my mouth. There are plenty of things to be concerned about, to plan for, to protect against, etc. However, as a Christian leader, I don’t need to be saying that “I am afraid” of anything. I wish I had told that to myself at the very beginning of the year.

HU: What are you most looking forward to in the third year?
Pres: The thing I love most about this job is the people: students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and all the rest of us. As I approach the third year, there are so many exciting things that are on the horizon: the new FNP Nursing program, the renovation of the GAC and the Rhodes, and the dedication of the First Ladies Garden at Homecoming, just to name a few. However, the most exciting aspect of entering my third year is thinking about all the new people I’ll get to meet this year and about getting to work with many of my closest friends in this incredible “Community of Mission!”

-Hannah Owens, director of news services

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While the past couple of months have reached frenzied heights of planning and preparation for today’s inauguration events, here in the PR office, we’ve been working toward this for almost a year and a half between the selection process and getting ready for all the coverage, printed material and photographs that come with this historic event.

Since Dr. Bruce D. McLarty was announced as Harding’s fifth president in November, I feel as though I’ve earned a master’s degree in McLarty through all the profiles I’ve written and interviews I’ve conducted with him and his family. If he ever needs a ghostwriter for his biography, I think I could easily do the job. In the midst of my getting to know the McLartys in this way, I found myself wishing that everyone could see them as I have. I hope I’ve translated my experience well in the upcoming Harding issue about the first family, but there is so much more about them that I just couldn’t fit into the page or perfectly capture in words — the sarcastic banter between Dr. McLarty and his daughter Jessica was particularly funny. A common phrase for the McLarty girls seemed to be, “We would’ve gotten a much higher ACT score if we’d listened to Dad more often.”

The McLartys make you instantly feel at home and at ease. They remind me very much of my own parents, and the family’s teasing ways are a great reassurance that my family isn’t the only family that doesn’t let you live your embarrassing moments down — in a good way, of course.

Toward the end of his presidency, Dr. David B. Burks was seen by many students as a grandfather-figure, one of gentle discipline and dry humor. You could easily picture yourself sitting in his living room asking for guidance and listening to his sage advice. I think that Bruce and Ann could easily be viewed as parental figures for the campus because they exude a warmth and kindness that is sought after by students away from home for the first time and even the occasional homesick staff member.

That is one of the reasons why I think today is an exciting day. Dr. McLarty brings such a heart and passion for not only this job, but for the students in his care and for the God who links us all. Under his guidance, I know we’ll continue to say, “It’s great to be at Harding!”

Jennifer Hannigan, copy editor/writer

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While each magazine we put out is full of stories — from campus goings-on to personal features and alumni memories — I often find myself with an even bigger selection of stories left untold. In a typical magazine interview, I sit down with the subject for 30 to 45 minutes, and a lot of times only a fraction of that material can fit into the magazine space allotted.

In my interview with Dr. Bruce and Ann McLarty, we talked for more than an hour and a half, and there is so much that I wish could fit in the coming issue that just cannot. One of my favorite stories they told happened when they moved back to Searcy.

When McLarty was hired as preacher for College Church, he, Ann, and their two daughters, Charity and Jessica, had to make a very quick move from Cookeville, Tenn.

“We still had a home in Cookeville, so we couldn’t buy a house yet,” McLarty recalled. “We lived in the Center Street Apartments, right across from Yarnell’s.”

However, apartment living isn’t ideal for a golden retriever, so while the family lived in the apartment, their dog lived with Rowan and Cecilia McLeod.

“We would visit a couple of times a week,” he said. “We’d get in our little Toyota station wagon, and we’d drive over to Cloverdale and visit the dog. It was horrible. Before it was over, Ann would be crying, the girls would be crying, the dog would be crying — it was just awful.”

For five months the McLartys visited their dog until they bought the house in which they still live.

“One of the happiest trips was loading that dog in the back of the station wagon and taking her to her new home.”

As McLarty told this story, his and Ann’s faces both lit up as they remembered reuniting with their furry companion. It was one of many anecdotes that they shared during our time together.

There is much more on the McLartys in the next issue of Harding. I hope that you enjoy getting to know this couple as much as I did.

Jennifer Hannigan, copy editor/writer

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