Building on the past

Reflecting on the Ganus Building’s 71 years of history

By Hailey Pruitt | Photography by Jeff Montgomery and from UCM Archives |

While it’s difficult for most students today to imagine a morning without a Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit after chapel, 70 years ago, students would descend on a student center on the other side of campus for hot donuts baked by Dixie McCorkle and then later, in the 1960s and 1970s, Mrs. Lomax’s cinnamon rolls. 

The Ganus Student Center, named by students in honor of then board chairman C.L. Ganus Sr., opened in 1951. It was part of a seven-building campus expansion made possible by a $1.5 million fundraising campaign that began in 1948. Those funds also provided Armstrong Hall, Beaumont Memorial Library, Cathcart Hall, Claude Rogers Lee Building and the Administration Building, renamed in 2021 in honor of Bro. Elijah Anthony and Dr. Howard Wright. 

C.L. Ganus Sr. was a businessman and philanthropist in New Orleans involved in leading countless organizations for the betterment of the city and the future. He was a member of the Charter Committee of the City of New Orleans and owned A&G restaurants, with several New Orleans locations, as well as Mrs. Drake’s Sandwiches. Both names were locally famous for more than 60 years. He was a founding elder of Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ and started the Lake Terrace School in 1950, which eventually became the Clifton L. Ganus School and served thousands of students until its closing in 1995. He was instrumental in organizing civic activities and raising funds for the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, United Service Organizations for National Defense, New Orleans Airport Commission, Louisiana Restaurant Association, several boards of the City of New Orleans and many more. 

At Harding, Ganus Sr. served as chairman of the board of trustees from 1940-54 and was a well-known advocate for students. According to the Jan. 27, 1951, issue of The Bison, Charles Cranford, 1950-51 student association president, said, “The student center was named for C.L. Ganus, president of the board of trustees, because of his outstanding service and sincere concern for the students at Harding College. It is only fitting and proper that the building be named for a man who is so devoted to youth and who helped make this building possible.” Ganus Sr. established a $2,000 student loan fund, a significant amount in a time when students were paying $7.50 per credit hour, as well as awarded a $100 prize to the top male and female student of each graduating class. 

The new student center included the College Inn cafe, post office, alumni office, bookstore and offices for the staffs of the Petit Jean and The Bison. The first floor area, which students called “the Hub,” was the center of student life where many remember meeting their spouses and forever friends, running for student association elections and attending social club events. The Emerald Room, a second floor banquet hall, was the site of many formal dinners, class reunions and even wedding receptions. A dumb waiter made it possible to transport food from the College Inn or Pattie Cobb cafeteria to the second floor receptions. The Ganus Student Center served for more than 20 years as the social focus of campus until the student body simply outgrew the space. 

By 1973, enrollment had grown to 2,319, and the space designed to serve 750 was bursting at the seams. That year the Hammon Student Center opened, and the Ganus Building entered a new era, repurposed for academics to house the office of admissions as well as the departments of foreign language and speech and the campus radio station, KHCA. In a new 12-room speech clinic, speech pathology majors provided free and low-cost services to many Searcy residents.

The 1980s proved to be a season of growth for the department of communication, requiring yet another renovation to add a new computer graphics lab, darkroom and video production editing space. In 1998, communication joined the department of music in the new Reynolds Center, and the department of history and political science moved into the Ganus Building. Many changes, especially the addition of new technology, supported the education of students in both departments. A new language learning lab was created in honor of retired foreign languages faculty Winfred and Dottie Wright, and political science students were provided with their own computer lab space. History and political science students enjoyed a student lounge, and the basement provided an area for various meetings and celebrations. 

In 2017, the Dr. Clifton L. Ganus Jr. Distinguished Chair for History and Political Science provided yet another connection between the department, the building and the Ganus family. Named for the son of the building’s namesake and Harding’s third president, the endowment provides additional resources and experiences for both the department and the community. A History Faire for local school children, a virtual book club for secondary classroom teachers, and History Explorers, a weekly class for children in grades 3-6 interested in history, have all been made possible by the endowed chair. In November 2019, the department displayed a portion of the Berlin Wall in the Benson Auditorium lobby. Remembering the end of the Cold War 30 years later, this exhibit was visited by University classes, area high school students and community members — a piece of history in their own backyard. The endowed chair is both a fitting tribute to Dr. Ganus Jr. and his leadership of the department of history and political science and the University as well as another way to continue the legacy of his father, C.L. Ganus Sr., who was generous to students, the University and the communities in which he lived. 

Although the demolition of the Ganus Building began this summer, the story of the Ganus family’s dedication to Harding and the kingdom continues. The Clifton L. Ganus Sr. Department of History and Political Science will be housed in the Holland-Waller Center slated to open Fall 2023. The facility also will include the department of foreign languages and international studies, ROTC program, Office of International Student Services, Walton Scholars program, Sino-American Studies Institute and English as a Second Language program. 

The Ganus family hosted a celebration of the history of the building at Spring Sing April 16, and many who fondly remember their time in the Ganus Building gathered to reminisce. It was a time to honor a rich legacy as a new structure welcomes the future. 


Mrs. Lomax’s cinnamon rolls recipe

Dough Ingredients 

3 cups very warm water
½ cup sugar
3 packages dry yeast
½ cup powdered milk 
3 eggs
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup Crisco
7 cups all-purpose flour

Filling Ingredients

1 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cinnamon 

Icing Ingredients

1 pound powdered sugar (approximately 3 ½ cups)
½ cup all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the dry yeast, sugar and warm water (105-115˚) until it is foamy (5-6 minutes) then dissolve ½ cup powdered milk in the yeast water. In a separate bowl or mixer, beat eggs, salt and Crisco.  Add egg mixture to the yeast water, then add 7 cups of flour to make dough. Knead about 5 minutes using your hands or use a dough hook attachment on a mixer. Add dough to a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled (about 45 minutes). Roll dough into a large rectangle on a well-floured surface and spread with softened butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly. Roll up and cut into 1-inch pieces. Put in two greased 9×13 pans. Cover again and let rise till doubled. Bake in 400˚ oven about 15-20 minutes. While baking, make icing. Whisk powdered sugar and flour together; then add water and vanilla. If desired, use clear vanilla for white icing. Ice while hot. Yields 24-30 cinnamon rolls. 

Editor’s Note: Mrs. Lomax’s family shared her recipe as “an extension of her ministry.” Alumni and Parent Relations Director Heather Kemper tested and verified the measurements. They are yummy!

Categories: Features.

Comments

  1. Sam Keichline BA 1964

    My wife and I met in the fall of 1962 in the Ganus Student Center. I sat down across from her at a table with some friends. She was drinking a root beer float, the official drink of early-60’s Harding. Straws then were paper; I reached over and pinched the straw and she then blew root beer in my face. I don’t think a word had been spoken up until then. I immediately knew this was to be the love of my life.
    We had hoped to get our picture taken in front of the building, but the demolition was well under way before we knew it. The building has always held a special place in our memories. We shared many hours there over the next 2 years, most less dramatic than the first. Hail to thee, beloved Harding!

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