May 20, 2016 | Harding Read
President Bruce McLarty announced the start of a campus read program called Harding Read beginning fall 2016. The American Studies Institute, Brackett Library and First Year Experience contributed ideas to the creation of the program, which encourages the campus community to read a book together and engage both in and out of the classroom. McLarty has chosen Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas as the book for the school year.
“I especially became aware of campus read when we had Wes Moore on campus because there were some universities that had used his book, The Other Wes Moore, as the campus read book,” McLarty said. “It’s something that is rolled out as a theme or a focus for the coming year, not unlike what we have done in the past with a theme in chapel.”
Participation in the Harding Read is not required in students’ curriculum, but McLarty hopes the activity will bring the campus together. First year students learned about the program during the welcome sessions of Summer Stampede I and II. Dr. Kevin Kehl, dean of the Center for Student Success, says he hopes the program will offer an outlet for students to connect with each other.
“Harding Read will provide yet another shared experience in which first year students, representing diverse backgrounds, can create common ground with one another,” Kehl said. “Because faculty, staff, administrators and alumni will be joining us in this adventure, we are confident that the reflections and conversations surrounding Amazing Grace will help strengthen our sense of community and connection with our extended Harding family.”
Amazing Grace is a biography of William Wilberforce and his heroic battle to put an end to slavery. Wilberforce heard word of the abolition of slavery three days before his death.
“As a young member of Parliament, he famously wrote in his journal that ‘God almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners,’” McLarty said. “In his context the reformation of manners dealt with a lot of issues that today we would put under the category of social justice — the treatment of widows, orphans, prisoners, animals and concerns like that. So Wilberforce was a person who had a wide variety of interesting concerns and passions.”
On Jan. 12, 2017, Metaxas will make a presentation on campus as a part of the American Studies Institute Distinguished Lecture Series. Kim Kirkman, associate director of ASI, is excited to add the Amazing Grace author to the lineup of 2016-17 ASI speakers.
“Every speaker that we bring to campus as an ASI distinguished lecturer has something valuable to offer our students, faculty and community,” Kirkman said. “It is not always easy to convey ahead of time the message an ASI speaker will bring to our campus for the event. I am thrilled to have the Harding Read to prepare and excite our community to hear Eric Metaxas.”
A committee has been working to plan events and create opportunities for the campus community to delve into conversation about the book throughout the year, and they are also working to generate curriculum ideas for faculty to integrate ideas from the book into the classroom.
“I think that reading, being a part of conversations or seeing the film ‘Amazing Grace’ will give each one of us the stirring to boldly live out our faith,” Kirkman said. “I am eagerly anticipating a wonderful crowd at the ASI Distinguished Lecture with Eric Metaxas because of the Harding Read experience.”
“At the end of the year, hopefully there is a book in addition to your academic classes — a book that has brought an awareness of something to mind, and we share that together,” McLarty said. “So for a community of mission, the idea of a campus read is a perfect fit.”