Freshman year

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Kevin Kehl freshman

Kevin Kehl, freshman year (Petit Jean yearbook)

I don’t know if fall 1979 set any heat records in Searcy, but I do recall that one of the first things I did was purchase a fan to put in the window of my room on the third floor of Armstrong Hall. It was warm to be sure, but the slight breeze created by the fan meant I could concentrate on the intramural softball games being played across the street. I’ll confess that during that first week I probably looked forward to getting out on the intramural field more than attending my classes. When orientation had ended and classes began, I remember teachers holding me to a higher standard than I was used to which was both frightening and refreshing at the same time.

My memory of that first week of school might best be described as snapshots that come into clear focus again and again during this time of the year. Here are a few of those snapshots:

• Guys hanging around the landline phone located in the middle of the hall anticipating a call from home or, better yet, from the girls’ dorm
• A roommate sharing homemade brownies he had received from home
• A letter from dad with a small amount of gas money inside
• Singing at night around the lily pond for hours.
• Daily chapel meeting in the Administration Auditorium.
• A mixed feeling of loneliness, anxiety and excitement as I longed for the familiar, dreaded the unknown and anticipated the possibilities.
• And finally, a keen sense of being in a special place with special people by which God was going to shape me

Kevin Kehl, director of first year experience and academic resources

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Liz Howell freshman

Liz Howell, freshman year (Petit Jean yearbook)

Remembering my first day at Harding is easy because I relive it each time I walk across campus. A calm, sweet spirit fills my soul as I walk under the canopies of oak trees and remember how quickly 40 years have passed. I lived in Kendall, and my best and oldest friend from home, Rhonda Brown Wilson, lived in Cathcart. We decided not to room together because we didn’t want to take a chance on hurting our friendship. We had a well-worn trail between our dorms and were inseparable during our first semester. As a girl from a small town in Southwest Arkansas, Searcy was a big city with many food choices that included pizza and cheese dip. I loved going to church camp, and I felt like going to Harding was better than church camp and a glimpse of heaven. I lived on the third floor and ran those stairs numerous times a day, and there was no air conditioning. I think I took two or three showers a day because it was so hot! We only had one phone on each wing, and miraculously that worked. That had to be some kind of divine intervention. Marcy Helton Allison, from Bossier City, Louisiana, lived across the hall from me. We became friends on my first day in the dorm. Rhonda and Marcy are the type of friends who I don’t see often, but they are life-long friends because of our Harding experience.

Liz Howell, assistant to the president for alumni and parent relations

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Zach Neal freshman

Zach Neal, freshman year (Petit Jean yearbook)

It was fall 1997. I was accomplishing a goal from a list I made in sixth grade: “Graduate high school and major in Bible at Harding University.” I remember having butterflies in my stomach as I walked out of Armstrong 213 thinking, “Yes, it is finally here.” My grandmother was a dorm mom in Kendall in the 80s, so I was on campus a lot as a kid. Add basketball camp and Uplift to the mix, and I spent many summers walking these sidewalks. My brother was an upperclassman while my sister and parents were already alumni, so I was definitely ready to add to the Harding tradition. If I remember correctly, more than 20 students of my high school graduating class were freshman at HU, so I knew it was going to be a lot of fun.

My brother gave me some practical advice: “1) Save your new clothes for the second week or you might as well write ‘freshman’ across your chest. 2) Order burgers without pickles at the Student Center Burger King so you won’t have to get one from under the heating lamps. And 3) Buy a large umbrella because you never know when you may need to walk a girl across campus.”

I remember thinking I was one of the few students who ate breakfast before 8 a.m. in the cafeteria. I remember thinking what an honor it was to be sitting in Dr. Neale Pryor’s New Testament Survey. I was amazed when he listed the names of my parents and siblings including where they sat in class. I remember thinking Dr. Ken Neller made Greek look a lot easier than it is. I remember going to bed that night looking forward to the next day.

As I think back to that first day I am reminded again what an honor it is to experience a “first day” every year with all of our new students.

Zach Neal, assistant vice president of student life


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Beckie Weaver freshman

Beckie Weaver, freshman year (Petit Jean yearbook)

I arrived on campus in September 1969. I may have been the most excited freshman on campus that year. Being a student at Harding College had been my goal for the last three years, and I came ready to join every club, participate in every mixer or devotional, and meet every other student on campus (and attend class). The idea that the majority of students at this college shared the same faith as me was the most exciting and joyful notion that I could imagine. I came to Harding College expecting to feel like I had felt at church camp, Camp Sunset, all year long. Harding did not disappoint me. It was heaven on earth.

Those first few days, I met friends who I still treasure. From the laughing short, blonde girl from Mississippi to the tall, quiet boy from Little Rock, to the group of sophomore Sub-T members who gave all the freshmen girls a fake name, they are all still part of my world. Harding College gave me what I was looking for; it gave me a string of human pearls of friendship. I will wear that necklace close to my heart forever.

I did attend class and acquire a degree, but the relationships that were established here have been educating me for eternity.

Dr. Beckie Weaver, dean of the College of Allied Health

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Glenn Dillard freshman

Glenn Dillard, freshman year (Petit Jean yearbook)

It’s been 34 years since I started as a freshman at Harding University, but I remember it well. The nervousness of meeting guys in my residence hall, the uncertainty of living full time with an assigned roommate whom I had just met, and the anticipation of all the life-changing experiences I had heard about from current students made each day exciting. It seemed like I was living on adrenalin for the first couple of weeks and then it hit me … I was 21-hours away from my parents and the home where I grew up, and I hadn’t even realized it!

Having attended public schools all my life, it was refreshing to be at a distinctively Christian university where classes would commonly start with a prayer or song — a university where it was obvious that there was something much deeper to grasp than becoming more proficient in my English or communication skills or attempting to understand an historical event. I appreciated then, and still do today, Harding’s intentional mission to combine faith, learning and living into every academic discipline.

As I think back on my Harding days I don’t initially think of the fantastic lectures I had in the College of Business Administration (although I’m sure there were many!). Instead I immediately think of the guys who were in my wedding, and the crazy (yet clean and harmless) things we did in the residence hall at 2 a.m. It’s the people, the friendships and the relationships that I miss the most.

As the new student class arrives and begins their Harding experience, it’s easy to be somewhat envious of what’s in store for them. I only hope and pray that their Harding experience is as positive as mine was. Welcome to the Harding family!

Glenn Dillard, assistant vice president for enrollment management

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For this blog post, I racked my brain trying to remember one shiny anecdote from my freshman year that perfectly encompasses the highs, lows and time of transition of that season of life. But I have nothing. Instead, I look back at freshman year as a learning period, one where I came into my own and helped me make the most of the three years to follow.

My freshman year, I lived in Sears Hall, which was next to where the Thornton building was being constructed. Apparently, this was in the days of Noah since it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, turning the construction site into a mud pit. The soundtrack to my walks to class was the squelch and splash of mud and water over my shoes and up my pant legs.

Fact: No freshman girl is going to pick up Mr. Right looking like Swamp Thing from the shins down.

To top it off, passing cars would zip by, sending a tidal wave of street water crashing over my head. No umbrella could withstand attacks of that magnitude.

After several soggy trips around campus, I learned how to avoid looking like the Wicked Witch of the West post-water bucket. Sophomore year came around, and with it, a pair of rain boots that made the next three years far less muddy.

And while that is a small lesson learned, there were many others. I changed my major in the second half of my freshman year, realizing I was not meant for the pre-pharmacy one I had declared. I was dumped in my first, short-term college relationship. But, with these challenges, I gained a pair of “rain boots” for each, learning from the discomfort and changing my approach, ending up with a more fitting major and my own Mr. Right.

My freshman year taught me to never underestimate those initial challenges, the growth that comes with them, and a good pair of rain boots.

Jennifer Hannigan, copy editor/writer