Articles by Hannah Owens

Hannah is the director of digital media in the communications and marketing office at Harding. She has been a writer for Harding magazine since 2011 when she began working for the University.


Student athletes at Harding have the opportunity to develop relationships with coaches and team members. Senior Cordell Zalenski is reflecting on his time at Harding as a member of the football team as he prepares to graduate in December.

“I am thankful for my football brothers and friends, my family from church, and my coaches and the faculty here at school that I have met,” Zalenski said. “The future looks bright thanks to them.”

As a student athlete, Zalenski has spent more than a dozen hours a week with his coaches and teammates. Fostering friendships with the players has helped change his worldview.

“I have been able to get a different perspective on the world and my faith from my brothers on my team, who come from all sorts of different backgrounds,” Zalenski said. “That would have been impossible to obtain without them.”

Zalenski said he has also grown close with the faculty and coaches he has encountered during his time at Harding. The people he has met have shaped his Harding experience.

“The coaches and faculty have made my time great, and they have been great examples to me and what living for Christ can look like,” Zalesnki said. “I have gained more family here as well, so I will always be able to call Harding my second home thanks to them.”

Savanna Distefano, intern


Chapel is a daily event for students and faculty to gather together to worship God and build community. Senior Mason Clemens said he is thankful for chapel and its influence in his life.

“Whenever someone is on stage and says a prayer or message, even if not all of them connect with me every single day, there are definitely those days where it touches you,” Clemens said. “The message hits you right in the heart, and you are just thankful for that moment when God uses that moment to comfort you and talk to you.”

Clemens said chapel promotes camaraderie while giving time for him to worship with friends and spend time in conversation.

“One of the best parts about chapel is picking a chapel seat next to your best friends,” Clemens said. “I would say hanging with your friends both before and after chapel is one of the best things. It’s definitely part of our central theme, the community of mission, and it embodies that.”

-Savanna Distefano, intern



Thanksgiving break is only a week away, and many on campus are starting to think about what they’re thankful for.

“I’m thankful for family — my immediate family and my Harding family,” Sarah Bobo, young alumni associate, said. “They are almost the same now since I’ve been here so long.”

Bobo graduated from Harding in May of 2014 and started her position in August 2014. She enjoys working with young alumni that care about giving back to the University.

“It’s amazing to see how many young alumni give back as soon as they graduate,” she said. “I’m thankful for the people who see the importance of Harding while they’re here and while they’re not here.”


Two weeks ago, the Waldron Center for Entrepreneurship and Family Business officially opened with a dedication ceremony Sept. 9. The center offers services to students and alumni who own small businesses and family businesses, and as someone who owns a small side business, I think the center is a great idea.

The center provides resources for students to focus on entrepreneurial academics and competitions as well as development of new business ideas. The space, which was recently renovated to accommodate those activities, includes worktables perfect for collaboration and a large, bright conference room.

Currently, the center is in the information-gathering phase, and they are seeking feedback from family owned businesses about issues that would be helpful to learn about and help achieve goals. This week, the center is promoting “hometown throwdown,” and they are asking the Harding community to submit names of businesses owned by University alumni for a chance to win prizes. The Waldron Center wants to write about alumni-owned businesses and feature success stories, but they need ideas.

The center provides students and alumni who have family businesses with a community of people to talk to and discuss business ideas. This network of conversation can really benefit business people with similar experiences and levels of operation and connect them with useful resources. Starting a business is hard work, and there are a number of steps to figure out. The Waldron Center is a place for idea generation and creation, and the staff can help guide you through the trenches of details and development. It’s a great addition to the Paul R. Carter College of Business Administration, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Hannah Owens, director of digital media


This morning, like most days, hundreds of students piled into the Benson Auditorium for daily chapel at 9 and 10 a.m. Like most days, students led songs, a prayer, a scripture and a devotional thought. But these students were a bit smaller than normal. Today, Harding Academy students led chapel.

Today is the National Day of Encouragement. It’s my favorite day of the year.

Chapel was led by Academy students who went on a summer trip to Nicaragua as members of Team Arkansas USA and played baseball and soccer against Nicaraguan teams.

“If you were to ask me about the highlight of my summer, right off the bat, I would say my trip to Nicaragua,” said Jayden Whilhite, who led the chapel devotional. “The most important thing for us to take away is: One, share with a smile on our face and grateful heart; two, thank God for everything, and be content; three, be loving, and be a servant; and four, go light our world.”

The idea for a Day of Encouragement began in June 2007 when Dr. Andrew Baker, director of the Mitchell Center for Leadership and Ministry, met with high school students at the National Leadership Forum. Baker broke the students into groups and had them discuss what they believed to be the biggest problem facing today’s high school students.

“A lot of them came back with different ideas, but one of those groups that day came back and said, ‘We acknowledge that there are lots of problems, but we think there’s something at the root of all of it — the amount of discouragement we feel every day,’” Baker said. “I said, ‘I agree with you, but what are you going to do about it?’ And they said, ‘What if we created a National Day of Encouragement?’”

The focus of the day is on surrounding others with love and encouragement. The theme for this year is “The Power of a Smile.” After the chapel devotional, Baker spoke to students about encouragement and the need to experience it and share it.

“A smile is the most universal gesture,” he said. “The National Day of Encouragement is not complicated. It’s really simple. It’s in your DNA — the need for it and the ability to give it. Just encourage.”



Baker urged the entire campus community to partake in the day and encourage someone. Students are writing notes of encouragement to others in the student center and sharing uplifting thoughts on social media.

Baker’s son, Isaac, led a prayer to close the devotional. “Please be with all my friends in Nicaragua,” he said, “and please help all these college kids to have a good day.”

Hannah Owens, director of digital media

Watching the waters rise as the rains continued to fall, I thought about all of the Harding students we have from South Louisiana. I know that such an historic flood will affect their families and create concern and confusion for the coming weeks and months.

I spoke to one student, and she told me that their family was affected and that “it’s pretty bad.” One of my coworkers has family and friends whose homes were completely flooded. A minister friend of mine in Baton Rouge said that the flood “created problems for so many of our members.” Another friend in Alabama told me that their church was going to raise funds and send supplies down.

We have all seen pictures on the news and Facebook of the disaster relief efforts, and I’m so thankful that God is directing so many people and supplies to help out. My prayer, and I’m sure yours, too, is that God will work through this and that those affected will find the help and relief they need. One way to help is to contact the South Baton Rouge Church of Christ. They are coordinating an effort to help as many as possible in their area and can be reached at 225-927-4673 or through their website

Morris Seawel, senior advancement officer

As we continued our “Looking for Wilberforce” trip, we left Oxford the next morning and drove 50 miles north to Olney. This lovely little English town was, for 16 years (1764-79), the home of John Newton. Newton is best known in history as the writer of what is probably the most beloved hymn in the English-speaking world, “Amazing Grace.”


The former captain of a slave ship, Newton later become one of the most influential spiritual leaders of his day. Metaxas describes Newton as a defining influence in the life of William Wilberforce, first when Wilberforce was a child and even more significantly during what Wilberforce would call “the great change.”

Newton ministered for the parish church in Olney from 1764 until 1779. It was during this time that he became good friends with Wilberforce’s uncle and aunt, William and Hannah Wilberforce, who lived near London. Following the death of Wilberforce’s father and the illness of his mother, he went to live with his “Uncle William” and “Aunt Hannah” in Wimbledon. It was here that young Wilberforce became acquainted with some of the greatest and most devout spiritual leaders of his day. Among them was the former-slaver-turned-minister Newton, who was in his 40s during the time that Wilberforce lived with his aunt and uncle between the ages of 9 and 12. Metaxas speculates, “It was he who would have given little Wilberforce his first knowledge of slavery” (p. 7).


The greatest impact that Newton seems to have had on Wilberforce happened many years later. By that time, Newton had left Olney and had moved to London to work with the Church of St. Mary Woolnoth. 1775 was the year of what Wilberforce came to call “the great change.” It was the year when he transformed from a self-indulgent son of privilege into a serious disciple of Jesus, intent on giving his life to the will of God. Metaxas chronicles this year of spiritual crisis and relates the details of a transformative meeting between the 26-year-old Wilberforce and the 60-year-old Newton on Dec. 7, 1785.

Wilberforce must have poured out his heart now to the one person who might understand his anguish and his difficult choices. But as so often is the case, Wilberforce discovered what he had so terribly feared as a chimera, nothing as bad as he had thought. Newton didn’t tell him what he had expected — that to follow God he would have to leave politics. On the contrary, Newton encouraged Wilberforce to stay where he was, saying that God could use him there. (Metaxas, p. 59)

The words “God could use him there [Parliament[” set the course for the remainder of the life of Wilberforce. The old slave ship captain gave wise counsel to the distressed young politician that day, and the story of the fight against the British slave trade was forever changed.



I’ve long been thankful for Newton because of the power that the words to “Amazing Grace” have had on my own life. But during our time in Olney, my gratitude had a different focus. On that day, I was most grateful for the counsel, encouragement, comfort and direction that he gave to Wilberforce. He called him to remain in Parliament and engage the great struggles of his day, and he assured him that “God could use him there.” Thank you, John Newton!

Final stop: Kingston upon Hull

Bruce McLarty
London, England
August 7, 2016


I was reading Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas when I learned that the journals, letters and other important papers from the pen of William Wilberforce could be found today in the rare books and manuscripts section of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Seeking every potential connection with Wilberforce, I began exploring the possibility of viewing these original documents and perhaps even holding them in my hands. Jean Waldrop, director of the Harding University Brackett Library, assisted me stateside, and I corresponded about this matter with Colin Harris at the Bodleian Library via email. They both helped me to get a good idea of what sorts of materials were in the Wilberforce collection.

Wilberforce 3-2

Our very busy first day in England was spent seeing four different Wilberforce sites. Then, on the morning of our second day, we rented a car and drove to Oxford. Arriving in the early afternoon, we quickly moved into our hotel in town and then headed to the Bodleian Library. When we arrived at the library, which is actually a collection of libraries, I was directed across the street to a building where I could apply for a reader’s card. I walked up to the desk, mentioned that I had been in correspondence with Mr. Harris, and asked if I could speak with him. The receptionist called his office and then reported back to me that Mr. Harris had taken a tea break. They then led me to the office where I was taken through the process of obtaining a reader’s card. After that, I put my bag in a locker, went through security again, and was directed upstairs to find Mr. Harris. (I ought to take the opportunity at this point to acknowledge that everyone in this entire process could not have been more kind and helpful.)

By the time I arrived in the rare books reading room, Mr. Harris had returned from tea. He was exactly as I had pictured him through his emails, a man perfectly made to work in a reference room. Mr. Harris spends his days helping students locate the materials they are searching for while he calmly maintains the decorum and care of the manuscripts such a place requires. In short, he was tremendously helpful to me and very patient with my lack of knowledge concerning the everyday processes of his reading room.

Mr. Harris helped me locate the index of the Wilberforce collection and then showed me how to fill out a rare book request form. It was about 3:45 p.m. when he told me that if I would submit my requests by 4 p.m., then the materials would be delivered to me at 5 that same afternoon. I quickly followed his instructions and submitted the forms. Then, at 5 p.m., I walked to the desk and was handed four packets of William Wilberforce materials. The moment was surreal. I could not believe what I was holding in my hands!

Wilberforce 4

For the next hour, I was lost in a world of Wilberforce. I was holding his journals, reading his handwriting, feeling the texture of the sheets of paper on which he wrote, and sitting enveloped in the musty smell of old documents — perhaps even the smell of his writing desk. Some of the items I read were as mundane as a shopping list while others were as sublime as this reformer’s spiritual journals. Metaxas writes about how severely critical Wilberforce was with himself, and I noted that on several of the entries I read in the spiritual journals, Wilberforce began with the words “Alas! Alas!”

Wilberforce 2-2

I only read the Wilberforce papers for about an hour because I knew that I couldn’t begin to do justice to their study in the short time I had that day. And I knew that the Brackett Library has obtained digital and microfilm copies of this same material for the students and faculty of Harding University to use this year as part of Harding Read 2016. This was simply a visit to see the originals with my own eyes and to hold them in my own hands. On my journey looking for Wilberforce, this was a most incredible day!

Next stop: Olney

Bruce McLarty
London, England
August 6, 2016




The start of the school year is quickly approaching, and knowing practical things to survive college is a must. We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks from Harding students, Harding alumni offered advice, too.

Invest in a quality rain jacket and rain boots.

The rain seems to fall the hardest when you’re walking to and from classes. An umbrella might seem like a good idea, but when the wind picks up and puddles reach your ankles, you’ll think otherwise.

Be prepared in case you get sick.

You’re staying up late, drinking lots of soda in the cafeteria, and taking advantage of the unlimited French fries. You might get sick adjusting to a new living environment. Sophomore Matthew Swann can attest.

“Be prepared to get sick the first several weeks if the dorm life is really new to you and not an environment you’re used to. It happened to me last year, and it was bad — allergies, coughing, sneezing and runny, itchy nose!” -Swann

Make a checklist of things to help you through your sickness — Emergen-C, Gatorade, crackers and Alka-Seltzer tabs. If you can’t manage your sickness with those go-to items, Student Health Services is free to students and is a frequented and appreciated place by many.

Scott White offered advice if you find yourself needing a prescription filled.

“Figure out a pharmacy and file insurance information before you need a prescription. It is no fun to deal with the paperwork when you are sick. Some pharmacies offer delivery.” – White (’92)

Budget your DCB and use your meal plan.

It’s going to be tempting to eat Chick-fil-A for lunch every day. You’ll definitely want to start every morning off with a bagel and coffee from Einstein’s, but learn to budget your DCB. Your end-of-semester self will thank you.

The average amount of DCB for a freshman is $250. With 16 weeks in the semester, that’s around $15 a week. That’s a Chick-fil-A sandwich and waffle fries for lunch and a couple of bagels and cups of coffees for breakfast. Depending on your love for chicken biscuits, that’s also a chicken biscuit every morning after chapel.

To hold yourself accountable, have friends who you meet up with for lunch and dinner everyday. Go to the cafeteria together, and make sure you’re keeping your DCB in check. Even better, mark a day in the week — for instance, DCB Tuesday — and get Chick-fil-A or Panda Express with your friends.

Also, don’t forget to use your cafeteria swipes. You pay for those; don’t let them go to waste.

Don’t spend too much on your dorm decorations, and don’t over pack.

Pinterest packing lists and decoration ideas are great, but remember that everything you carry up to your dorm room at the beginning of the year has to come back down — and then some.

Throughout the year, you’ll accumulate a lot of stuff, and you’ll wonder how it all got there. It happens to everyone — don’t worry. Start with a small amount of things so as the year progresses you’ll have space available to put stuff.

Some of those packing lists are too extensive. Unless you’re running a business from your dorm room, you’re not going to need that Vera Bradley desk organizing set. Go without it. You’ll save money and space. Check out this Harding packing list:

Use the GAC gym, and don’t buy a gym membership off campus.

Off-campus gym memberships are expensive! The average gym membership cost is $40 a month. That’s $40 you could spend on a day trip to Memphis or on a concert ticket.

With the expansion of the Ganus Athletic Complex, there is no need to go off-campus for your daily workout. Stay on campus, and save yourself $40.

Don’t forget about the little things.

Check out of the dorm, and check in with your parents.

“Checkout if you are going home for the weekend. Call your parents once a week. And love every minute.” -Susan Leibovich, Harding parent

“Call or write home at least once a week. Your parents want to know the little silly everyday things that are going on.” -Deanna Brooks (’66)

“Find friends that match your ambition and academic goals. Find friends that love the Lord and want to make him known.” -Charles Pappas (’97)

Don’t forget to have fun.

So many people say their years at Harding are the best of their lives, and that’s so true. Have fun, and enjoy your time at Harding.

Kaleb Turner, public relations intern


New beginnings have been trademarks of his summer so far, but being a supportive dad from the stands at his sons’ baseball games comes first.

Dr. Jeff Mercer was named dean of the College of Pharmacy in April and began his role on June 1 when Dr. Julie Hixson-Wallace, the previous dean, moved into her new role as vice provost for accreditation.

“The most pleasant surprise of this transition has been the support of friends and colleagues,” Mercer said. “It really has seemed like everybody is pulling for me, and personally that means a lot to me.”

Mercer has been able to witness department- and campus-wide change. From watching his predecessor move into her new role to seeing new hires within the College of Pharmacy, Mercer said it’s been a whirlwind.

“It seems like transition is everywhere, and I’m a part of a lot of transition that is going on,” Mercer said. “Once you’re in the midst of change with a positive attitude, you begin to look around and see so much opportunity. There is so much room for meaningful engagement, and I think that is something that people are excited about.”

Amid all the change, Mercer still finds time for family, friends and fishing. Earlier this summer, Mercer and Executive Vice President David Collins spent an afternoon fishing on Crooked Creek, which Mercer said is something he has wanted to do since he moved to Arkansas. Outside of fishing, Mercer spends time with his three sons, devoting much travel and many hot summer days to baseball.

“We just got back from Laurel, Mississippi, where my youngest son was playing in the Dixie Youth World Series,” Mercer said. “The other two made it to the state tournaments with their teams, so that’s really driven a big part of my summer.”

As the school year nears, Mercer’s focus turns to the students and the possibilities for success and service among students and faculty within the College of Pharmacy.

“I think pharmacy is one of the greatest professions ever, and I think the students who make a choice to be a pharmacist are choosing a great profession and one that holds the public’s trust,” Mercer said. “We’re one of the most trusted professions in the United States, and as such, I think Harding is well positioned to lead in that area being a faith-based university with a mission mindset. I hope our students realize that great responsibility and opportunity.”

To pharmacy students, Mercer urges making the most of their time at Harding by taking advantage of all that is offered and making deliberate decisions about the future.

“I look back at my time as a pharmacy student, and it was my opportunity to set the tone for the rest of my life,” Mercer said. “I would just encourage students to see their time here in the College of Pharmacy as a great opportunity and to take their time seriously and make meaningful choices about their future.”

With just two weeks until students start class for the 2016-17 school year, Mercer said he’s eager to begin the year and see students back on campus and in the classrooms.

“It’s never a burden for me to wake up in the morning and come to work here in the College of Pharmacy,” Mercer said. “That helps me to know I’m doing the right thing, and it speaks volumes about our incredible faculty, staff and students here in the College of Pharmacy and Harding.”

Kaleb Turner, public relations intern

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