By Jantzen Haley | Photography by Jeff Montgomery
It was clear to all who knew him that Dr. Clifton L. Ganus Jr. completed a great many deeds for the Lord, for Harding University, and for any and all with whom he interacted. He now rests from his labor, but his deeds truly live on, in part through the Endowed Chair of History and Political Science established in his name in March 2017.
Dr. Kevin Klein, professor of history and political science, was named the first recipient of the endowed chair. Fall 2019 was an especially notable semester for the use of the endowment to fund multiple events surrounding the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Klein relates the process of creating the lineup for the semester to the time-old children’s book Stone Soup by Marcia Brown.
In the story, three soldiers come to a town looking for a meal and some rest. When they are met with empty hands and full beds, they decide it’s the perfect night for stone soup. What starts with an iron pot, some water and three smooth stones grows to a feast fit for a king, all born from the soldier’s ingenuity, which they credit to “it’s all in knowing how.”
Klein feels similarly about his role as an endowed chair: “Really, what you’re doing as an endowed chair is trying to perpetuate the good work of others in a manner in which you’re emulating them and their finer qualities.”
HISTORY OF THE FUND
To understand the stewardship of the fund, it’s important to understand the purpose of its establishment — to advance an appreciation of history for the Harding community.
“Chancellor Ganus was such a larger than life figure. There’s something, as a history teacher, I tell my students: that your last impression is your most lasting. That said, the people who knew [Ganus] best knew that he’d actually started off as a historian — that was his first love and his greatest passion.”
Ganus graduated from Harding in 1943 with a degree in history and went on to receive his Ph.D. in history at Tulane University, serving Harding as a history professor and department chair before stepping into University administrative roles.
“[Establishing the fund] was intended to bring that part back into public view in a more obvious way.”
Similar to the beginning of Ganus’ story, Klein began his Harding story as a student majoring in history, and he, like Ganus, served as chair of the history department. Now, as endowed chair, he says the biggest difference is having the ability to say “yes.”
“You don’t want to say yes to everything, but you know that yes is okay. You’re representing the generosity of others, and you’re representing the confidence that others have placed in you.”
THE RIGHT PROJECT(S)
“One of the things about having this kind of access is you begin to realize it takes a long time to do something well with this kind of money. When it’s fully funded, it ends up being close to $50,000 a year. So, it took us a while to find a good project. We decided to have a theme that we could spend a good deal of energy on. We chose the Cold War for various reasons, one being that we were on the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down.”
Associate professor of history Dr. J.R. Duke came across a section of the Berlin Wall on display during a summer visit to the Memphis Zoo, and that’s where Stone Soup comes into play. Klein says hosting a section of the Berlin Wall became the stone for stone soup. They immediately began negotiations with Ripley Entertainment to bring a 10-by-10-foot section of the wall to campus. From there, the soup quickly grew into a feast.
“My expectations for the semester were that it could be this good, but the fact that it was this good was due to the contribution
of a lot of people. That’s what I meant by Stone Soup. Oftentimes once you get this thing going, people just want to contribute to the conversation.”
Instead of simply displaying the portion of the Berlin Wall, Klein expanded the display into a proper museum exhibit, complete with photo essays and a brochure available for viewers to take with them. The display stayed up through Homecoming, allowing the reach to greatly increase. Little Rock news station THV11 also filmed a segment with an interview by communication department chair Dr. Laurie Diles that aired Nov. 9.
There was a special one-hour course on the Cold War available to interested students. The department also collaborated with other areas of campus to put on a liberal arts colloquium, speaking on various topics related to the year 1989. Associate professor of Bible and church history Dr. Allen Diles spoke about taking the gospel behind the Iron Curtain, drawing from his experience as a missionary in the Czech Republic. Professor of music Dr. Cliff Ganus III spoke about Soviet music and propaganda. Assistant professor of English Dr. Russell Keck covered the relationship between the novel The Watchman and the Cold War. Assistant professor of history Dr. Liann Gallagher ended the evening speaking about the Tiananmen Square protests.
Along those same lines, chapel was dedicated to the theme the first week of November leading up to the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9. On Monday, Klein introduced the week’s theme, and Bible instructor Gary Jackson spoke about the Russian perspective on the war. Assistant professor of business Norm Stone spoke Tuesday on his time as a military combat engineer in Germany and his responsibility as an officer in charge of nuclear demolition charges. On Wednesday, faculty members Allen and Laurie Diles, who were missionaries in the Czech Republic for 11 years following the opening of the Iron Curtain, were interviewed by assistant Bible professor Mac Sandlin about their mission experience.
Klein admitted that Thursday’s chapel was one of the best moments of the semester for him. Marek Dawidow, former missionary in Warsaw, Poland, and current family minister at Millington Church of Christ in Tennessee, spoke, and it wasn’t necessarily his words that day that struck Klein so much as the legacy carried by this Polish man whose Harding ties run deeper than one may initially think.
“Poland was very instrumental in the collapse of the Eastern Bloc control (by the Soviet Union). They kind of self-liberated, and then the Berlin Wall came down. Well, part of that effort of helping that process go forward involved Chancellor Ganus and others working to deliver supplies into Poland, as well as work toward getting the churches of Christ recognized as a legal church in Poland. Marek’s father was part of that movement. To me, that had a certain sweet symmetry to it. Marek’s father has passed, but he’s there as the legacy.”
The chapel week ended with a time of song and prayer — of gratitude, deliverance and boldness — led by Klein, senior Bible major Issac Davis, and Bible professor Shawn Daggett.
The fund also sponsored seven Cold War-themed movies shown on Friday nights in the Administration Auditorium, which was a nod to Ganus’ connection to film — the National Education Program films in particular.
“He made films and was in many ways the face, the spokesperson, for those films. So we wanted an aspect of film associated with [the use of the fund.] Likewise, we’ve established a prize for the film festival that’s now an annual part of the new film major. History is one of the few disciplines, if not the only discipline, whose main job is to tell everyone’s story but its own. So, when I found out about the film major, I thought we should offer a prize for the best short documentary related to history.”
Another connection to film for the semester didn’t link to the Cold War theme, but it did relate to another notable event of the year — the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and Harding’s role in getting there. Former history professor Dr. Eric Gross, who now lives in New Zealand, created a 50-minute documentary — “We Were Bold” — on the space race that played on loop in the Pryor-England Science Building lobby. Klein was quick to point out that Gross would not accept any compensation for the film and that this was another example of the stone soup mentality — when someone gets the ball rolling, others are quick and eager to jump on board.
THE ROOM(S) WHERE IT HAPPENED
Funds from the endowment also have expanded opportunities for students to be in the room where it happened, so to speak. While educational excursions have long been part of the history and political science department, having funding to supplement the cost has allowed more students access to attend.
One of those trips was to Titan Ranch, a reclaimed Titan II missile silo in Vilonia, Arkansas, which was a large and active part of the Cold War and has since been dug out and repurposed as a state-of-the-art facility for training, meetings, events and team building.
“To be lecturing on the Cold War in a nuclear missile silo was … it was a neat experience as a historian. I’ve lectured on Civil War battlefields. I’ve taken students through the Cumberland Gap. I’ve done things, but that — that was pretty cool.”
Another trip impacted by the fund is the American Experience Tour, which has roots closely tied to Ganus’ influence and instrumental role in the creation of the University’s American Studies program. Part of the program sponsored two or three-day trips for students to see things related to history, economics and/or politics. In 2012, the history department named the trip American Experience Tour and adapted the structure to be a 17-day trip and three-hour credit class during intersession where students visit historic sites and political venues and study several aspects of economics. Thanks to the endowment, the department now awards multiple scholarships for the tour so that more students are able to take the course.
“Again, that just seems really consistent with what [Ganus] had done, what he thought had value. And we think it has value, too.”
Likewise, Klein has invited the University’s ROTC cadets to accompany students taking the Civil War class on the three-day Civil War trip, which has happened for the past 40 years and previously has been limited to students taking the course until money was no longer an obstacle.
“I’ve had those men and women join us, or at least I’ve allowed them to turn us down instead of money turning it down. I want to use this money to get people access to good opportunities, to be exposed to the value of history. I really do believe that history is a gift from God.”
LOOKING BACK AND MOVING FORWARD
The natural question as the fall semester ended is what will that gift do next? Simply put, Klein says he will leave that open for now. There are ideas floating, strategies in the works and storyboards being developed, but the focus right now is the success of the semester.
“It’s not just a gift to our majors. It’s not just a gift to the Harding student body. It’s a gift from God. And, as somebody who has received this money freely, I want to freely give it for the purpose for which it’s been put forward. One of the things you have to think of when you are a recipient of the honor of being a chair for one of these endowments is that you have to approach your job as a steward, yes, but also as an ambassador. You represent this person’s name, and you also represent that they wanted to associate their name with this institution.”
Much like the final page of Stone Soup, it is true of the University that “such men don’t grow on every bush.” And indeed, their deeds will follow them.
As the Ganus Endowed Chair of History and Political Science, Klein continues to emulate Dr. Ganus’ drive and passion for history. You, too, can play a role in sharing your discipline with students and alumni of the University. To learn more about contributing to this fund or establishing an endowment, visit harding.edu/advancement.