By Bruce D. McLarty, president
What a year! Who would have dreamed before 2020 began we would be telling students not to return after spring break, planning diligently for their return this fall, turning Kendall Hall into an isolation dorm and the Heritage Inn into quarantine headquarters, having our fall planning sessions virtually, and that I would have a favorite mask given to me by men’s basketball with a Bison and #5 (I’m the fifth president) on the side.
As board member and local physician Mike Justus reminded us during one of our virtual fall semester pre-session meetings, at Harding we have a culture of community where empathy for others is helping us through this season of COVID. He told faculty and staff, “A touchless campus does not keep you from touching the hearts and
minds of your students.”
As we navigate 2020 where it seems we have lost so much and many things have gone wrong, I am reminded of the good things God is doing and has done during these turbulent times. A few of these are:
- Ninety-eight percent of our students indicated in a survey that they felt care and concern from faculty when they had to go home in March and switch to distance learning.
- We have managed to physically distance our entire schedule of classes, utilizing College Church of Christ across the street, the old Family Dollar facility, and every space possible in our auditoriums.
- Our Physical Resources department built 1,450 plexiglass shields for student desks, 150 podium shields and 115 computer lab shields during the course of the summer to aid in our safety.
- Our local community has remarkable healthcare resources that are available during this pandemic.
- The Campus Activities Board has done a tremendous job with physically distanced events including concerts and multiple showing times for movies.
- Even though chapel is being held virtually, we were able to have our traditional favorite “Muffin Chapel” in front of the Heritage Building.
- We moved our lighting ceremony up to Nov. 2 so students could enjoy the lights before Thanksgiving.
We are indeed thankful for a fall semester that, while very different from the normal, has been spent together. When the church faced persecution, it spread the Gospel, just as this virus is producing opportunities to share the love of Christ with a world desperately in need of hope.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As we were finishing this issue, we learned of the retirement of Dr. McLarty. Look for coverage in our next issue.