A great cloud of witnesses

By David B. Burks, president

The Lord has really blessed us this fall with a great spirit on campus. We are very grateful to have been able to resume in-person chapel, athletics and a full slate of campus activities. Our enrollment was up 7.6% to 4,970. I am grateful for every student who can be touched with the message of Jesus Christ.

We began the year with convocation on the first day of chapel since we were able to be together at one time. The fellowship of being together in chapel and so many other activities has been very noticeable this fall — yes, you could feel camaraderie everywhere.

Several significant milestones have occurred this fall. A large crowd gathered during the last day of Lectureship, Sept. 29, to remember and honor the life of Botham Jean on what would have been his 30th birthday. The memorial erected across from the entrance to the cafeteria will remind all who pass by of his love for all people.

Homecoming was one of the best I can ever remember. More than 100 events occurred, and they were all well attended, and people enjoyed being together. 

On Saturday morning, we held the dedication ceremony honoring seven African American alumni who blazed the path for others to follow. When those who were recognized first walked on this campus, they did so at a time that was very different from today. Racism and prejudice existed within the Harding community, and we acknowledge the pain that was felt. For this, we are truly and deeply sorry. We believe racism is wrong in any form.

The first three African American undergraduate students to enroll at Harding in the fall of 1963, J.C. Lewis Brown, Walter Cunningham, and David Johnson, had conferred upon them the degree of Honorary Bachelor of Arts as well as being recognized with a monument in front of the newly named Anthony and Wright Administration Building.

Thelma Fae Smith and Curtis Sykes were the first two African Americans to graduate from Harding with master’s degrees in 1965. They are recognized and honored on a separate plaque.

Bro. Elijah Anthony and Dr. Howard Wright were the first two African American students to graduate from Harding with bachelor’s degrees in 1968. Because of their significant contribution to Harding as students and as alumni, as well as their distinguished lives of service, we dedicated the iconic Administration Building as the Anthony and Wright Administration Building. During a time when both the nation and the church wrestled with a history of slavery, segregation and existing racism, walking into this building required courage. They demonstrated that courage for all of us.

We express tremendous gratitude for these individuals and the many students who have followed in their footsteps. Their faith, courage and commitment are an inspiration to us and will continue to be for generations of Harding students to come.

On a final note, as this magazine was going to press, we welcomed the news of the selection of Dr. Mike Williams as our next president beginning June 1, 2022. Dr. Williams has a rich history with Harding University and is well prepared to lead us to greater heights. He is a great man of faith, and I know he loves Harding. 

Categories: Viewpoint.

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