By Allan Isom, retired professor of Bible
In 1961 Dr. Joe Hacker and his wife, Joan, moved to Searcy where he became chairman of the Bible department, serving in this capacity until 1974.
Hacker was a creative education curriculum designer with the unique ability to see educational opportunities on campus as well as in foreign countries, and he designed programs that would address those needs.
Hacker wanted Harding’s students to have a worldwide mission view of people in other countries. He organized international campaigns, which provided opportunities for students to go to other countries during the summer to do mission work in cooperation with foreign churches.
He also was a driving force behind short-term study abroad excursions that were a precursor to the University’s international studies programs.
Hacker started the visiting missionary program on campus. This was done to expose students to a person who teaches Bible to people in another culture.
One of the first things Hacker did was to measure incoming Harding students’ recall of well-known Bible facts. He found Harding’s students lacking in comparison to students in other religious schools outside our fellowship. Redesigning the Bible curriculum, he encouraged his faculty to emphasize Bible facts. By the sophomore year, Harding’s students achieved higher scores than did students in those other religious schools.
Sensing a need for well-trained Sunday school teachers in our churches, Hacker started a summer program to train Bible school teachers called Bible School Workshops. He and three or four teachers also would hold weekend Bible school workshops in churches across the country.
Wanting a well-trained faculty, he sent teachers to get doctorate degrees in preaching, counseling, and both Old and New Testaments. Hacker would not consider hiring a person as a faculty member unless that person had had a successful ministry in a church setting.
In 1974 Dr. Hacker and several others envisioned a program that would allow nontraditional students to come to the campus and study the Bible called the Christian Communication Program. The first class began that fall after he transitioned to Lubbock Christian University.
Hacker made a long-term significant contribution to religious education programs at Harding University. His legacy lives on.
William Joe Hacker Jr. (’55), 86, of Huntsville, Alabama, died March 23, 2017. He joined the Navy in 1948 at age 18 and trained in electronics to serve as radio control aboard the USS Navasota in the Korean War. He earned his doctorate in 1966 from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He chaired the Bible department at Harding from 1961-74. He served as president for Lubbock Christian University from 1974-76, worked in development for Freed-Hardeman University from 1976-78, and was administrator of Ouachita Christian School in Monroe, Louisiana, from 1978-81. He preached for churches in Texas and Alabama. He is survived by his wife, Joan Benson (’52); four children, Tim (’74), Denise Hacker-Woody (’77), Carol Cameron (’83) and Cathy (’91); eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.