By Jennifer Hannigan |
During the past 25 years, Harding has unveiled numerous buildings, launched new programs, inaugurated its fifth president, and seen graduates set out to change the world, and Harding magazine has been there to share those stories. While a common fixture in your mailbox and coffee table now, the magazine as it is stands today was a great, unknown adventure at the time.
FROM BULLETIN TO MAGAZINE
Prior to the creation of Harding, the main channel of alumni news was the Harding Bulletin. Produced five times a year, the Bulletin shared campus happenings in a newspaper style.
“The goal for the Bulletin at that time was to put out a periodic, informational piece to alumni, donors and friends of the school,” says former Director of Public Relations David Crouch. “That was the goal. It was more of a newspaper format, newspaper mentality.”
While effective, the Bulletin needed an upgrade, and the idea of creating a magazine came about.
“The idea for the magazine actually came into my mind when I started in the office in 1987,” Crouch says. “I took some hard looks at it, but we just couldn’t afford it. Two and a half years later after I had done some research into how we could do this financially, I made the proposal to Dr. [David B.] Burks. To his credit, he was all for making the change even though it was going to cost more money. Once we made that decision then the real process of putting everything into a manageable format and working situation fell into place — but not without a lot of hard work.”
The transition from tabloid to magazine was more than just cosmetic. The staff, which at the time was comprised of Crouch, Tom Buterbaugh, Jeff Montgomery, Scott Morris and Phillip Tucker, brainstormed everything from layout to content — even what to call the publication.
“We all met together,” says Buterbaugh, Harding editor and designer. “We sat and talked about production, how we were going to make it happen, and what we were going to include in it. We decided at that first meeting that we would call it Harding, and that it would stand on its own. Also on the table was whether or not to move from designing by hand to designing on computer.”
At the time, design capabilities were changing. The Bulletin had been designed in a typeset and paste-up style, but designing on computers was becoming more common.
“Desktop publishing was still fairly new at the time,” says Tucker, who was production director and writer at the time and now serves as associate editor for Vanderbilt Magazine. “Tom, a talented and seasoned designer using traditional paste-up methods, was ready to embrace the new technology when I arrived and had set about teaching himself how to use it. We had made the same transition from traditional to electronic publishing while I was at my former job, so I was already well versed in most aspects of the process and was able to help Tom with some of the software — though to be honest, he figured out most of it on his own.”
While the change in format was exciting, the execution also created some new hurdles.
“I remember it being scary, especially photographing the covers,” says Montgomery, magazine photographer. “We were going from newsprint and little pictures to a big, color magazine cover. A magazine cover versus the photo above the fold in a news bulletin — they’re different leagues.”
With a name and a template, the magazine was beginning to take shape. Next came content. While the bulk of what made up the publication would stay the same as the Bulletin, a magazine format allowed for more stories to be told.
“Harding has a unique story to tell,” says Crouch. “I personally wanted to feature what our alumni are accomplishing, what our students are accomplishing, what our faculty are accomplishing, and what programs are offered as only a magazine can do.”
THE FIRST ISSUE
With those elements finalized, it came time to create the first issue.
“It was a huge learning curve,” says Crouch. “We came up with the stories we wanted but then to translate that into the format that we had and even what we wanted on the first cover, I think we were pretty down to the wire on that. It might have been one of the last things we did.”
The photo shoot for the cover made a lasting impression on Montgomery, who was still relatively new to the office.
“The thing that pops into my mind is that I still very much remember the cover shoot,” Montgomery says. “I remember, looking back, being totally out of my league doing that. But Mr. Crouch made believers out of us. He believed it was going to be great, and he believed we could do it. And he told us that all of the time.”
“In some respects, I felt a huge ownership in it,” Crouch says. “It was everybody’s project, but it was my project. I felt a keen interest that we would get it right from the get go. We wouldn’t work our way into something that looks nice. We start out very good and work our way up to a very excellent publication, which is where we are today.”
The cover photo, which featured leads from the Homecoming musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” was taken on film and, with the exception of the back cover photo, was the only color photograph used on the magazine, as it would be several more years before color made it inside the publication.
The first deadline came and went, and the magazine needed to go to press in order to be sent out to alumni. There was still one piece missing, but the magazine could not be held up any longer.
“We had a picture of the Homecoming queen being congratulated by another girl, and we combed through everyone in the student center, and no one could tell us who she was,” Buterbaugh says. “So finally we decided to make up a name: Rosemary White. I’ll never forget it. We said as soon as the magazine comes out, we’ll have people running up to the office to correct us. Nobody ever said anything. Not the Homecoming queen, not anybody.”
To this day the identity of the girl in the picture remains unknown.
As timing would have it, the first magazine was printed right before Christmas break. The hours of work provided the staff with a very fitting Christmas present.
“I remember when Mr. Crouch and I press checked the cover,” Buterbaugh says. “When the magazines arrived right before Christmas, Jeff had already left to go home to Memphis, and my wife, Beth, and I were going through on our way. We stopped and met Jeff and his wife, Julie, had lunch with them, and gave them a copy because we were so excited about having it.”
“I do remember that,” Montgomery says. “It was super exciting. I still get excited when I get the latest issue, but that one was big time.”
The excitement of the staff was almost equaled by the response from alumni, who were surprised to see the new look of their alma mater’s publication.
“When the new Harding magazine hit the mail stream, it was an immediate hit,” Tucker says. “We heard from some older alumni who missed the Bulletin, but by far the remaining feedback was positive and even celebratory. After a few issues, we hired a firm to do a scientifically conducted reader survey for us, and the results were nothing short of phenomenal. It was great validation of all the hard work we’d put into the project.”
“My favorite reaction I received was from Shirley Birdsall (’54) Alexander who was the librarian when I was in school here,” Buterbaugh says. “She wrote me a note and said that, when she opened her mailbox and saw the magazine, she thought, ‘Could this really be my Harding?’ She was just so pleased with it.”
STORIES BEHIND THE STORIES
Every issue thereafter would come with its own sets of challenges and triumphs. For Montgomery, the pressure of knowing what he was about to photograph had to work for the magazine caused some nerves. For the dedication of the Jim Bill McInteer Center for Bible and World Missions, the staff wanted the unveiling of the name to be the cover shot.
“Getting the exposure right for the slide film was a guessing game. The light meter on the camera would get you close, but you would always shoot one lighter, one what the meter said, and one darker,” Montgomery says. “They pulled the ropes to remove the cover, but they had taped it, too, and one piece just would not let go. An office student worker was on the balcony with the choir and popped the last piece of tape. I caught the cover falling and that was the right exposure. It was really luck to some extent that it was the right one and that made it.”
The feature stories of the magazine required more time with the subjects than Bulletin stories needed in the past; this led to many trips to see stories unfold firsthand.
“I can’t remember prior to us taking on the magazine ever sending writers and photographers for a story,” Crouch says. “It was probably a long distance phone call and requesting pictures but never an onsite photographer. Those were fun things that we tried, and they worked. And we got to do more of that.”
From New York to Arizona, Colorado to Illinois, the magazine staff has been across the country to find and tell the stories of Harding.
“Stories that I enjoyed working on were, more often than not, stories that got some time,” Montgomery says. “To go and not have to make it happen on a day. We had days to work and find. Those are the stories that I like and still remember the most.”
Through all of the stories told, the magazine has remained a trusted publication, not just by readership but by the administration.
“It’s never been an administrative publication,” says Crouch. “The staff has sole responsibility. The administration has confidence in the office and the individual people that it’s going to be a good publication.”
“I think people would be surprised by how little influence there is,” Buterbaugh says. “We were always trusted. We’ve always had a staff throughout who always had Harding’s best interest at heart.”
Making it in the Big Apple
While I had the privilege of connecting with many interesting alumni during my time at Harding magazine, the most fun story was profiling India Medders Galyean’s (’90) New York City “show biz” experiences.
Visiting New York City was new for me. But talking to India, originally from Resaca, Georgia, was as comfortable as being back on the Harding campus. She welcomed us to her Upper West Side walk up she shared with her husband, Hugh, and chatted away about her experiences on stage — and the secret of her success. “My biggest commodity is that I’m so Southern,” she said. “They think my Southern stories are really funny. You may think, ‘Yeah, that’s my grandmother, too,’ but they just eat it up.”
One part of the story that has stayed with me was her words of advice for living in an unfamiliar place — just be yourself. “I wouldn’t tell everyone to sell their things and come on up, because it is so difficult,” she said. “But everything has turned out well so far, and I thank God for bringing me here.”
copy editor/writer • 1997-99
Home again, home again, market is done
Looking back, it was a pretty self-serving opportunity. I don’t even remember now if Dr. Terri Rine suggested I participate or if I nudged the invite myself. Either way, I was along for the ride with her group of 12 fashion merchandising students to AmericasMart in Atlanta, where they would help produce a culminating Friday night fashion show.
In addition to highlighting a group of talented, creative students that often go overlooked, my attempt in writing was to convey the same sense of urgency that was felt in this fast-paced, show-must-go-on environment.
This writing assignment also reaffirmed broader truths about the University. Our professors know how much learning takes place beyond the confines of the classroom, and they facilitate this as often as possible. Rine sought these opportunities out for her students on a regular basis. Additionally, professors are their students’ biggest cheerleaders. Rine had full confidence in her students and their attention to detail. She was committed to providing real-life examples to show students what they were capable of. I also saw how our students can compete head-to-head against students from much larger schools and programs. The women on this trip to Atlanta showed true grace and grit in contrast to their peers from another big-name Southern university.
I know some of the students from this trip pursued various jobs in the fashion industry. I would love to know what they are all doing now and if they viewed this experience as pivotal in their career choice.
writer • 2000-09
Transforming the 50th World Mission Workshop
One of my favorite assignments was when I traded in my dress shoes for hiking boots to explore Harding University Tahkodah during the 50th anniversary of the World Mission Workshop — now the Global Missions Experience. The gathering was significant, not just because it was a celebration of five decades but also because it marked the beginning of utilizing the global village at HUT for hands-on training. That day, I saw young people laying aside their own comforts, cooking food over open fires, sleeping on the cold ground inside small tents, and drinking water from a five-gallon jug instead of the tap. They were doing all of these things for the sake of learning how to become effective missionaries. They weren’t just learning about how to bring the word of God to the people of the world but also how to bring them tools for living.
writer • 2009-11
Around the family table
The inauguration of Dr. Bruce McLarty as the University’s fifth president was a busy and memorable time for the entire campus. Amid all the excitement, I was able to visit the president’s home on the edge of campus and have a meal with the McLarty family. In doing so, I was able to see the first family as they are, laughing about family vacations and enjoying being with each other.
Whether through his social media presence or his daily chats with students on campus, McLarty has made himself very approachable to everyone, and this story shows that was true from the very beginning of his presidency. It also meant a lot to me because I felt extremely connected to the University’s history in that moment. To cover a key point in Harding’s timeline and to be a reference for another generation that wants to know what that moment was like will always stand out for me.
copy editor/writer • 2008-present
Artists. Pharmacists. Athletic trainers. Actors. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and writing about many incredible people, each one teaching me something about life or the world. For the fall 2015 issue, I went to lunch with Dr. Ed Wilson, professor of chemistry, where we sat and talked for several hours about his years of teaching, work with NASA, and passion for students and outer space, and it was my favorite interview and story I’ve ever written. There’s something so comforting about sitting across the table from someone, sharing a meal and telling stories. It was like time stopped, and we were the only two people in the restaurant — two friends talking.
Not only is Wilson a brilliant scientist, but he’s also a humble man and a favorite teacher for many students spanning his 46 years in the classroom at Harding. This feature was my favorite because I really got to capture Wilson’s personality through sharing several of his funny stories from the interview. I really hope readers felt like they, too, were sitting across the table from a friend.
writer • 2011-present