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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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Have you seen the dogwoods this year? I love dogwood trees, and I think I always have. That is one of the primary reasons the spring of the year is so special to me on the Harding campus. The dogwoods blossom, the azaleas bloom, and the Spring Sing guests appear on campus. In the very best of years, like this one, they all arrive during the same week.


This spring I decided to start my own quest to find the prettiest dogwood tree on campus. I found that once you start looking, you realize that there are spectacular dogwoods everywhere! So I took pictures to tweet, and before long others were joining in on my search — people like Harding University photographers Jeff Montgomery and Matt Dobson.



My favorite bit of feedback on this pursuit of Harding’s best dogwood came from a student who said, “I know this sounds terrible, but before you started tweeting pictures of the dogwoods I didn’t know that we had any on campus. Now I realize that they are everywhere you look, and they are so beautiful!”


I’ve often heard that longtime Harding administrator and history professor Virgil Lawyer was the person who led the campaign to plant dogwoods on the Harding campus. This spring I have delighted both in his dogwood trees and in getting to introduce a new generation to their beauty.

Dr. Bruce McLarty, president 




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Spring Sing hostess Lindsey Sloan (far left) smiles for a selfie with her fellow hosts and hostesses during Spring Sing 2013.

Spring Sing hostess Lindsey Sloan (far left) smiles for a selfie with her fellow hosts and hostesses during Spring Sing 2013.

Upon graduating high school, you are constantly being convinced your college years are some of the best years of your life. When reflecting on the past four years of my life, I can honestly say that truer words have never been spoken. On Aug. 19, 2010, I left everything that I had ever known in small town Willard, Mo., to embark on what has been one of the single greatest blessings I have ever received; I began my time at Harding University.

After pledging Zeta Rho during the fall semester of my freshman year, I chose to participate in Spring Sing with TNT, Zeta Rho and friends. This was such a great avenue for forming new and lasting friendships, and, little did I know, would also hold such a huge place in the make up of my Harding experience. I was elected to direct my club’s Spring Sing show my sophomore year and was selected as a hostess for Spring Sing both my junior and senior year.

The lessons, friendships, growth, love and memories that have come as a result of this annual event are immeasurable and even more irreplaceable. To have the opportunity to participate in an event that is so much bigger than all of us is more than I could have ever asked for but is something that I am forever grateful to have received.

— Lindsey Sloan, senior communication sciences and disorders major

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Photo by Jeff Montgomery

Photo by Jeff Montgomery

When is the last time you went on a tour of the Harding campus? Maybe it was this morning as you walked, ran or long boarded to class. Maybe it was in the fall when you came to see your kids during Homecoming. Or maybe it was years ago when you visited campus for the first time and had someone show you around.

The last time I had a true campus tour was when I was 16-years-old and visiting Harding for the first time with my dad. I was the first in my family to attend Harding and had never seen campus — much less been to Arkansas. I was hesitant about the visit mainly because I was flying for the first time but also because this was a place more than 11 hours from my home in Ohio and I was determining whether I could make it my new home. I was undecided about Harding until my admissions counselor encouraged me to just visit Searcy. He said, “Don’t make a decision until you see and experience the campus for yourself.” That was great advice.

That visit sealed the deal for me. I walked on campus and had a great experience. I roomed with students who ended up being friends and classmates. I met teachers who have now turned into colleagues. I felt the spirit moving on campus and knew that I could grow at Harding.

My husband, Nate, and I both work at Harding now. He works as a recruiter in the Admissions Office, and I work as an instructor in the communications department and as the faculty advisor for student publications. I never thought that our jobs would be to help carry on the Harding legacy, but that thought crept into my mind the other night as I sat at a reception for prospective students and their parents. As I listened to Nate talk to high school students about why he chose to attend Harding for college, I thought about the reasons why I chose Harding again … as my place of employment.

This week happens to be most high school students’ spring break, so campus has been busy with prospective students looking for their academic home. Yesterday, I decided to tag along with Nate on one of his campus tours to get a fresh perspective of Harding through the eyes of a first time visitor. I met with a family for lunch in the caf and listened as a high school student from Little Rock talked about her experience on campus. She had never been to campus before, and it only took her a day to realize that Harding was the place for her. I asked her what it was that made her decision, and she replied, “All I had to do was visit.” Harding is a beautiful place, especially around Spring Sing time, but it’s more than that; Harding is a beautiful place to be because of the people who make it a community.

You might think that, as a university instructor, I chose this job because of its ranking on the Forbes’ Least Stressful Jobs of 2014 list (it’s number 4). Believe me when I say that that is not the reason. (Does sarcasm stretch across the Internet?)

The reason I chose Harding again is the same reason I chose it 11 years ago. It’s because of the people. I am glad to see that, although new buildings appear and old ones disappear around campus, the people have remained the same.

— Katie Ramirez, director of student publications and instructor of communication

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Gartner research suggests that by 2016, 30 percent of social media posts will be automated and five percent will be from nonhumans! These may in fact be low numbers! So as we reflect on that prediction and as the 10-year mark for Facebook passes by, what do we think and feel about social media?

It surely has changed. I recall in summer 2004 Harding was wrestling with how to work with social media on campus. The content filters in place then were blocking sites like MySpace — it had become a repository for a considerable amount of seedy material. The buzz in 2004 was about this new platform called Facebook.

Wanting to know more about the site, I did some looking around and found a number to call at the bottom of Facebook’s homepage. Much to my surprise, the number happened to be Mark Zuckerberg’s own phone. He answered my call as he was walking the streets of Los Angeles, I believe, looking for space to set up more servers. I asked him about his plans for Facebook and if he saw it to be like MySpace. While he was not certain about the future of Facebook, he did say that he did not want it to become like MySpace. At the time, Facebook members were restricted to .edu networks in the United States. Of course that restriction was lifted in a relatively short time.

From there, we have lived through the growth of Facebook and other social media. Now it appears that Twitter is taking the place of Facebook. Recently in a class, I asked the students how they see people engaging in social media in three to five years’ time. A number see less activity as more of social media is infiltrated with marketing and not so social. Others described social media as a “highway of people” and as a place where we will always connect and interact. Even further though, some see a social media presence as a necessity to build trust and validity. If someone does not have a social media presence then they are not real.

One thing is for sure, in its 10 years of existence, Facebook has generated momentum in social media. Today there are people of all ages and many nationalities who post, like, share and even poke on Facebook. It will take a significant force to stop that momentum.

Keith Cronk, CIO/vice president of information systems and technology

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