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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


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


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

McLarty churchAfter we finished our encounter with the Sir Thomas Lawrence portrait of William Wilberforce in the National Portrait Gallery, we hired a cab and asked the driver to take us to the Holy Trinity Church in Clapham. The neighborhood in which this historic (1776) church still stands now has its own stop on the London Tube. When we arrived at the church to continue our search for connections with William Wilberforce, we got that feeling you get when you enter a run-down neighborhood for the first time, and you aren’t exactly sure how safe it is for you to be there. However, there were plenty of people on the streets, and we could see people of all ages sitting in the park next to the church. We walked up to the building and pushed the buzzer on the door but received no answer. As we continued our walk around the building, we met a group of people who were coming out of a basement classroom where they had been attending their regular AA meeting. The room, we later discovered, is very fittingly named “The Wilberforce Center.” One of the gentlemen in the group was very kind and helpful and offered to help us find an open door. After having no success with locating an unlocked door, I used my cell phone to call the number on the church sign. A young woman answered the phone and came downstairs to open the door. She confessed that she didn’t know much about Mr. Wilberforce, but she graciously proceeded to show us around the building.

The first Wilberforce connection she pointed out was a beautiful stained-glass window that depicts Wilberforce as a man in green trousers and distinctive yellow stockings. He is surrounded by enslaved Africans, and he holds a copy of what appears to be the bill abolishing the slave trade. The wording on the stained glass states, “Before my Father which is in heaven, The Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee.”

Mclarty windowThe second recognition of Wilberforce at the church is a small blue medallion above the front door from the Greater London Council that recognizes William Wilberforce and “The Clapham Sect” for their work in abolishing slavery in the British Empire.

McLarty engravingThe final recognition of Wilberforce at the Holy Trinity Church is a large engraved stone that is part of the outside wall of the church. It is significantly scarred, and we were told that the damage had been inflicted by Nazi bombings during World War II.

McLarty.ClaphamThe Clapham Sect

Who in the latter part of the 18th and early part of the 19th centuries labored so abundantly for national righteousness and the conversion of the heathen, and rested not until the curse of slavery was swept away from all parts of the British Dominions

Eight names are listed alphabetically, the final one being William Wilberforce.

The “Clapham Sect” once lived in this neighborhood and attended this church. They were constantly in one another’s homes and sometimes even lived in the same houses. They challenged and inspired one another to continue the work of abolishing the slave trade and, eventually, the institution of slavery, itself. I came to Holy Trinity Church in Clapham looking for William Wilberforce. What I discovered was evidence of a community. The work of Wilberforce was not accomplished in isolation. He was part of a church community that faithfully stood with him as he fought slavery for 47 long, grueling years. He was not alone.

Next stop: Oxford’s Bodleian Library

Bruce McLarty
London, England
August 5, 2016

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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

Books.08-03-2016-7972Editor’s note: we are rerunning this post from last year because it can help you save on back to school.

I don’t consider myself an expert at much, but if there is one thing I like to do and am fairly good at, it is finding a good deal. I like it best when it is for items I or my family must have.

So it makes me glad to let you know you can save the 9.5 percent tax on textbooks, Harding apparel and school supplies at Harding University Bookstore Saturday.

You see, Aug. 6 is a tax-free holiday for the state of Arkansas, and the bookstore will be open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Come by and take advantage of tax-free prices on items you or your student will need to purchase in just a couple weeks.

Do you live too far away or can’t come by to shop? Place your order online today through Sunday, and the bookstore will give you the tax-free rate and hold your books until you return.

It’s always good to save but even better when it reduces your school bill for the fall.

Tom Buterbaugh, editor/designer

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William Wilberforce’s lifelong friend, William Pitt, stands guard over St. Stephen’s Hall. The House of Commons met here when they voted to abolish the slave trade on February 23, 1807.

Stop 1: The British Parliament

I finished rereading Amazing Grace, Eric Metaxas’ biography of William Wilberforce, shortly before landing at London’s Heathrow Airport late Tuesday night. It was in the final paragraph of his epilogue that I found the words that would become the title of this short travelogue and blog. Metaxas writes, “To all of us wandering together here now, looking for William Wilberforce…” That is it! To all of us in the Harding community who are taking part in Harding Read 2016, we know exactly what “looking for Wilberforce” feels like. We now sense a connection to him that we can’t quite explain. He is both friend and hero, both bigger than life and yet a strangely comfortable companion. Amazing Grace leaves us wanting to continue this relationship, and so we go “looking for William Wilberforce.”

For a few short days in England, Ann and I are planning to visit some of the places that will hopefully help us connect even more deeply with the man we have come to consider both friend and inspiration through reading Amazing Grace. We want to walk where he walked and touch some of the things he touched. In this way, we will spend the week “looking for William Wilberforce.”

Our journey began this morning with a tour of Parliament. Though most of the buildings have been rebuilt since the time of Wilberforce because of fires or World War II bombings, there is still a strong sense of heritage, politics and government process within the walls of these iconic structures. As we stood (but were told in no uncertain terms not to sit!) between the red bench seats in the House of Lords, we remembered that the final bill to abolish the slave trade was introduced by British Prime Minister William Grenville to this group first as Wilberforce was “watching from the gallery, and doubtless on pins and needles throughout” (Metaxas, p. 206).

We then walked the short distance to the House of Commons, the room filled with the familiar green bench seats that we sometimes see featured in Parliamentary debates on CSPAN. There we imagined Wilberforce rising to his feet, year after painfully frustrating year, to introduce yet another bill to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire. And I thought of how thankful I was that John Newton had counseled the terribly confused and deeply distressed Wilberforce that he did not need to leave politics to serve God. Instead, according to Metaxas, “Newton encouraged Wilberforce to stay where he was, saying that God could use him there” (Metaxas, p. 59). “There” meant the place where we were standing: the British House of Commons.

All of this led up to the highlight of the morning, and I have to confess that I almost missed it. Our last stop with our guide was in St. Stephen’s Hall. Today, it is a beautifully ornate room that seems more of a passageway than a historic chamber. On either side of the room, there are the familiar green benches that we had earlier seen in the modern-day House of Commons. Then our guide told us in a somewhat offhanded way that St. Stephen’s Hall (now a chapel) was where the House of Commons met from 1547 to 1834. Then, as the British sometimes say, “The penny dropped.” I asked our guide, “So this is the place where the final decision was made to abolish slavery?” He said yes, and we headed to the next stop on the tour. But Ann and I realized that we were in the hallowed place where the deeply moving scene described by Metaxas on pages 210 and 211 took place. Because of Harding Read 2016, we had been here before! We were sitting where Wilberforce, realizing that the moment had finally come, after 20 years of frustration, and the slave trade was about to be voted out of business in the British Empire. We were sitting where Wilberforce was “overcome, and taking his head in his hands, he wept” (Metaxas, p. 210).

We came here “looking for Wilberforce” and in a small way this morning, we found him in Parliament. Stop 2 will be Westminster Abbey.

Bruce McLarty
London, England
August 3, 2016


Monday, we welcomed high school students from across the state for the Jostens All In Yearbook Workshop. Students attended workshops on design, photography, headline writing and storytelling.

Today, they left campus with a new set of skills in their toolbox to tackle their school’s yearbook in the coming school year. They also left with something a little less tangible — a greater sense of story and what it means to be a part of a yearbook staff.

Tomorrow, I sit down to construct the ladder — the blueprint of content — for the Petit Jean, Harding’s yearbook. The construction of the ladder is a catalyst to the greater task that is to come.

Too often, I feel like people don’t understand the significance of a yearbook. Sure, it’s a neat book to look through to find yourself and your friends or to find pictures of your social club winning the club basketball championship. But there is something greater to a yearbook than simply pictures and words on pages. It’s what those elements work together to create.

As I’ve thought about what I want the 2016-17 Petit Jean to reflect, one idea has made itself home in my mind. It’s not an idea of what I want the design or photos to look like or how I want the headlines written and formatted. It’s an idea that I hope 40 years from now someone will appreciate.

It’s the idea that in 40 years, when someone is trying to compile a list of Homecoming musicals or find pieces to document Dr. Bruce McLarty’s presidency, they’ll look at the Petit Jean that my staff has created and be impressed — impressed that we thought 40 years in advance and with that made deliberate and well-thought out choices on what Harding’s story is going to be for that year.

Because 40 years from now, no one is going to remember off the top of their head which professor won a national award for their research or which social club took home the Spring Sing sweepstakes award. But what they are going to do is look to the Petit Jean.

My staff and I have the greatest task — to document Harding’s story for 2016-17. That task involves decisions about what to include in Harding’s history and how we tell that story. It’s not a task to be taken lightly, and it’s not a task that we’ll take for granted. It’s that task these high school students on campus this week take to heart, too.

Monday, those students came to campus to learn.

Today, they leave ready to document the history of their school.

And 40 years from now, we’ll all look back on our books and be pleased with what we’ve done because it’s more than just pages, paper and photographs. It’s a story about the place we love. For the Petit Jean staff and me, that’s Harding. And that’s perhaps one of the greatest things we’ll do while we’re here.

Kaleb Turner, Petit Jean editor-in-chief



Ben Treme, assistant director of admissions, works with students in Central Arkansas and Western and Southern Texas who are interested in attending Harding.

“Our campus is beautiful, but I think the community makes it a lot more beautiful,” Treme said. “Harding is just a very relational place, and I think people say that a lot, but once you’re here, you really experience that firsthand.”

During the summer, Treme’s role in admissions takes a bit of a different role — a role that finds him spending more time in the state and simply relaxing.

“I try to do a lot of retention in the summer,” Treme said. “With students who are accepted to come in the fall, I’ll try to visit with them face-to-face during the summer — not so much travel to recruit, but travel to keep.”

For Treme, an incredible product of the admissions process is the relationships and connections it fosters — relationships and connections that last throughout students’ entire time at Harding.

“The relationships that you get to continue are something really special,” he said. “Last year was my first class — fall 2015. A lot of those students still come to my house for Bible study every Wednesday night, so that progression of the relationship is really special.”

When he’s not making connections with students during the summer or helping students find their way around campus at Summer Stampede, Treme enjoys taking advantage of the time off.

“[My wife] and I are both very content with just driving and spending a day at the lake,” he said. “We could get there and do nothing and be happy that we’re there. We love peace and calm. I think part of that is because I travel a lot during the fall and spring, so during the summer I really enjoy relaxing.”

To his incoming freshmen, Treme gives survival tips based on his experience as a freshman at Harding, like don’t sit in your dorm room and spend your days on a PlayStation.

“Get out of your dorm room, meet people and get plugged in,” he said. “There are so many things for you to get involved in and so many people for you to meet; you just need get out there and do it.”

Kaleb Turner, public relations intern

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