Dr. Burks

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Leah and David Burks pose with the portrait's creator, Michael Shane Neal.

Yesterday at 4 p.m. in a short ceremony in Cone Chapel, attendees were given the opportunity to view for the first time the official portrait of Harding’s fourth president and current chancellor, Dr. David B. Burks.

The chosen portrait artist, Michael Shane Neal of Nashville, Tenn., was on hand for the unveiling. Neal has painted nearly 500 portraits, including Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and senators Arlen Specter, Robert C. Byrd and Bill Frist. Art and journalism students and faculty were able to talk shop with the artist following the ceremony.

The new portrait will fitly hang on the first floor of the David B. Burks American Heritage Building, the building named in Burks’ honor upon his retirement from the presidency.

Tom Buterbaugh, editor/designer

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It is Lectureship week on campus. I love this week because you get to see so many visitors, hear great messages from God’s word, and you hear all of the different Harding choruses — all in four days.

The highlight for me so far this week was the Fireside Chat on Sunday night. Dr. McLarty interviewed Dr. Ganus and Dr. Burks about their memories of Lectureship.

Dr. Ganus’ first memory of Lectureship was as a freshman on Thanksgiving Day in 1939. That was the day the mortgage was burned. Harding owed around $75,000 when Dr. Benson became president in 1936 so paying off that debt in three years was a big deal.

Lectureship was always on Thanksgiving week because that was the only day the school was closed. It was a big day, and both Dr. Ganus and Dr. Burks talked about the wonderful Thanksgiving meal and how Dr. Benson would have barbecue pits dug over where the football field now sits. They would cook hundreds of pounds of beef and pork to feed everyone.

Basketball was also a big part of of Lectureship weekend. Dr. Ganus told about the game on Nov. 24, 1966, when Harding was played Oral Roberts University in the Rhodes Field House. One of the Harding players received a pretty serious ankle injury during the game. As he was being attended to on the court, Oral Roberts himself came down out of the stands and offered to heal the player. According to Dr. Ganus, the player assured Mr. Roberts that he would be OK without a healing. According to the Sports Information Office, the player was likely Ron Goss as he only played in the first quarter of the game. The Bisons lost the game 80-75, and it was the only time we have ever played the Golden Eagles. (Thanks to Scott Goode for the game details.)

Dr. Burks also remembered a basketball injury that he photographed as a Petit Jean photographer. He recounted that two players collided under the goal, and the Harding player went down with a huge gash on his forehead. Dr. Burks said blood was everywhere, and he knew he was in trouble. He walked around behind the half wall that separated the lobby and the court and passed out. An ambulance came and took the player to the hospital, the floor was cleaned and the rest of the game was played — he missed it all.

One of the funny moments of the chat came when Dr. McLarty asked how Lectureship was separated from Thanksgiving week. Dr. Ganus quickly spoke up and said “it changed during your presidency” while pointing to Dr. Burks. Dr. Burks explained that the students forced the date change. School was closed on Thanksgiving Day and on Friday and as Harding students do they started leaving on Wednesday to go home and there was simply no one here. Several different models were tried before the late September date was chosen.

Dr. Ganus mentioned that he always enjoyed hearing Batsell Baxter and G.C. Brewer speak while Dr. Burks said he especially liked to hear Ira North, and he always loved his signature gold sports coat.

We have the video online here if you want to watch the Fireside Chat.

I love hearing the history of Harding from these men.

Jeff Montgomery/photographer



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A large bison woodcarving named “Glory” by its creator now greets visitors to the lobby of Benson Auditorium.

The 10-foot tall sculpture weighing almost 5,000 pounds was presented in today’s special chapel program honoring the presidency of Dr. David B. Burks. It is the work of artist Tim Hogan and was donated to Harding by the Paul R. Carter family in honor of President Burks.

The program began with a devotional led by Student Association President Will Waldron and Burks’ three grandsons, all students at Harding Academy. His 17-year old grandson, Carter Burks, gave a talk using Dr. Burks’ favorite verses on the aroma of Christ, concluding with, “I think he is a wonderful example of the aroma of Christ, and I am proud to call him my Grandpa.”

Provost Larry Long presented a slide show highlighting Burks’ 26-year presidency. Long said even in the early years when he was an English professor and Burks was in the College of Business Administration, Burks was always intentional thinking about how to better the University.

He revealed that Burks has guided 275 million of capital projects during his tenure as president. The faculty has doubled as has the number of colleges, and the student body has increased from 2,823 in 1987 to more than 6,800 in 2012.

Long also shared Burks’ leadership in higher education. Calling him a Christian leader, he said, “Burks has found the right thing, and he has done it.”

Following the presentation of the statue, chapel concluded with a treat — Burks’ favorite dessert, gelato.

Tom Buterbaugh, editor/designer

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There are three simple words students hear every day (especially the ones without chapel skips), and they have come to be the “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!” of the Benson.

“You are dismissed.”

While many students giving personal announcements jump at the opportunity to let their people go, the declaration just feels right when delivered by Dr. Burks himself. In fact, I think next to “camaraderie,” it’s probably his most quoted line.

As I was streaming chapel today and heard him release the masses, it made me wonder how that sentence will sound coming from the mouth of our next University president, whomever that may be.

While there’s no way of knowing just how many times Burks has spoken that statement during his time as president (Will Farrell has the lead on “Live from New York” with 32 times, in case you like random tidbits like that), his legacy is more than just a departure, but a feeling of spiritual reverence along with “high-spirited fellowship” (the ever popular definition of camaraderie) found every day in the Benson.

We still have a little more time to enjoy his daily dismissal before he passes the baton in spring 2013, and, until then, he can set the number of times spoken a little higher for his predecessor to reach.

Jennifer Hannigan, copy editor/writer

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