Zach Neal

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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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