Dona Pursley Cornutt (’36) has been doing accounting work since she was 6 years old. Her family has owned multiple businesses throughout her life, and she grew up working alongside her dad in his grocery store. Thus, it’s no surprise that she became the first female student to graduate from Harding with an accounting degree.
Born in the North Texas town of Miami in 1916, Cornutt graduated from high school at age 16 and set out for Harding College in Morrilton, Ark., in fall 1932.
In the end, it was her mother who sent her to Arkansas. “My mother visited Harding, and she visited Abilene Christian University. The girls wore their dresses longer at Harding,” says Cornutt.
As a student, she was right in the middle of one of the most exciting moments in Harding history when the campus moved to Searcy in 1934. She worked for the president’s wife, Mrs. J.N. Armstrong, throughout college and even helped with the move.
College life was active for Cornutt. An honor student, she was twice voted best all around and was a member of Ju Go Ju social club, worked as a reporter for The Bison student newspaper and served as editor-in-chief of the Petit Jean yearbook during her senior year. She loved those four years and even donated her yearbooks to the University’s History House in 2009.
“Have you ever been in a house where, when you walked in, you felt like you were at home?” she asks. “Well, this is what Harding did for me — I was very much at home.”
After graduation, Cornutt moved back to Texas. She and her husband had three children before he was killed in a gas well accident in 1959. Having always been in business, she continued her career as she worked to support her family. She spent seven years running the Pampa High School office and later became coordinator of distributive education, a program that gives students business experience and improves their skills while helping local businesses.
Today, at 94, Cornutt still lives in Pampa and remains active in her community. She lives right around the corner from her church — Mary Ellen and Harvester Church of Christ — which she helped build. She’s been named Woman of the Year twice — once in 1960 by a local sorority and again in 2000 by the Pampa Chamber of Commerce. She was recognized as Artist of the Year by Pampa Fine Arts in 2007.
Cornutt says she feels fortunate to have lived a long and healthy life and has no plans to slow down anytime soon. She still works as a bookkeeper for the family business, Pursley Gas Co., and continues to dream about the future.
“I wanted to get my CPA — that was my desire, and then when I married and had children, I just didn’t have time to study to do it … but maybe I will one of these days.”
‘It’s great to be at Harding’ returns
By Liz Howell, director of alumni relations
“Dr. Jimmy Carr loved Harding. His energy and enthusiasm for the University were evident to all who met him. As assistant to the president from 1973 to 1997, Carr had one hope: that present students and future generations would come to love Harding as he did. He was able to see his dream fulfilled before his death in 2009, as thousands have uttered the phrase he coined more than 30 years ago to describe their own college experience. Today, those six simple words ‘It’s great to be at Harding’ have come to symbolize the Harding story, one that is now 87 years in the making.” — Harding view book, Page 4.
Through the marketing campaign of Admissions with the renewal of a phrase that many alumni remember and cherish, the next generation of the Harding family is learning more about our history. From humble beginnings, the small group of dedicated men and women who founded Harding College might be amazed at the more than 51,000 alumni who are strengthening the University and sharing their Harding story worldwide.
As the bright yellow buttons returned to campus, alumni were asked, “As a student, why did you decide that it was great to be at Harding?” Things like lifelong friends, caring teachers and staff who provided spiritual and career guidance, club outings, football games, late night talks in the dorm, singing, chapel, praying with friends, playing on the front lawn, the feeling of family, Spring Sing, and being challenged in their own faith were among the many reasons given.
Claudia Bates (’77) Boswell said, “Harding always felt like such a safe haven for me … that time between my parents’ home and my own independence that helped me mature enough for the challenges that would face me as an adult. I will always be grateful to Harding for nurturing me.”
Karen Solley (’88) Sullivan commented, “When I saw this button again, it gave me goose bumps! I remember getting one from two Harding summer camp counselors before my senior year in high school. I eventually came to Harding, found a wonderful husband, graduated, and now our daughter is a freshman this fall. It was great to be at Harding when these buttons were first around, and it is still a great place to be. We hope and pray her experience will be as great as ours was.”
Most of us still agree with these words in the new view book for prospective students:
• It’s great to deepen your faith in a Christian environment where service is a lifestyle.
• It’s great to gain a global perspective that helps extend the impact you can make on the world.
• It’s great to earn an exceptional education at an exceptional value.
We invite you to return to campus, bring a prospective student with you, and tell your story of why it’s great to be at Harding.
Proving themselves by going above and beyond within their field of study, 11 alumni will be honored at this year’s Black and Gold Banquet Nov. 5 during Homecoming. While they have awards and honors to their names, they also have the respect of others and a reputation that sets them apart, actively serving God, family and community.
• Distinguished Alumni
In his relentless work to bring justice to a number of civil rights-era murders, Jerry “Boo” Mitchell (’82) has made quite a name for himself. An investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., he has uncovered evidence regarding murders during the civil rights movement and, so far, has helped put four Ku Klux Klansmen behind bars. While his work has prompted complaints, letters to the editor, and cancelled subscriptions in his home state of Mississippi, he has also received pressure from Klansmen and others, with the FBI currently investigating a series of death threats against him.
His work has garnered numerous awards within his field. Most recently he was honored with the prestigious MacArthur fellowship and will receive $500,000 during the next five years so that he may continue to pursue these cases. He is also writing a memoir on his experiences.
Overall, he has won more than 30 national awards, including the George Polk Award twice. Mitchell was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist and is the youngest recipient ever of Columbia University’s John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, among others.
His wife, Karen O’Donaghy (’83) Mitchell, is a retired teacher, having taught six years as a learning disabilities teacher and 12 years as a private tutor. Currently working part time in retail, the bulk of her day is spent helping her husband in his work.
They have two children, Katherine and Sam, and attend Skyway Hills Church of Christ in Pearl, Miss.
• Outstanding Young Alumni
Both working in nonprofit medical fields, Drs. Luke (’96) and Caroline Clements (’96) Smith are reaching out to two in-need groups.
Luke serves as executive director and lead psychiatrist at El Futuro Inc., a nonprofit mental health organization for the Spanish-speaking population. The clinics attract patients from 15 counties around central North Carolina, with sites in Durham, Carrboro and Silver City. In 2009, he received the George C. Ham Distinguished Alumnus Award from University of North Carolina Department of Psychiatry. Luke was also awarded the Heroes in the Fight Award from the North Carolina Mental Health Association in 2006 and the North Carolina Latino Diamonte Award for Health and Science in 2007.
Caroline works as a pediatrician with Piedmont Health Services, a government-funded, nonprofit organization providing medical services to an indigent population. She currently heads up a collaborative effort with University of North Carolina to reduce obesity in pediatric patients. She is also involved in a quality improvement project to increase immunization rates at their clinic site.
The couple has two daughters, Lilliana and Hannah, and attends Cole Mill Road Church of Christ in Durham, N.C.
• Outstanding Alumni
College of Arts & Humanities
On any given morning, Amy Blankenship (’88) Sewell can be found in a television studio long before the sun comes up. As the founder of New York City-based Shop With Style and a nationally recognized lifestyle expert, she creates and prepares three- to six-minute lifestyle segments that air on morning newscasts and lifestyle shows. Sewell features the products and services of her clients, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Lands’ End and Godiva Chocolatier, while providing information that her viewers can use.
Since starting her television career in 1997, she has done more than 1,200 live interviews on national and local shows from coast to coast. Sewell launched Shop With Style in 2005 after nearly two decades of high-profile work with the national media.
Sewell and her husband, Scott, attend Manhattan Church of Christ.
College of Bible & Religion
As professor of homiletics and director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tenn., Dr. David Bland (’75) instructs his students on the principles of preaching. For the past decade, he has co-edited and helped compile essays on preaching and sermons into 10 volumes for the Preaching Character series, with the 11th and final volume being released this year. This series compilation began 13 years ago to focus the fundamental responsibility of preaching, that of proclaiming the message of Scripture to the relevant issues of the day.
In addition to his work at the Graduate School, Bland is also part-time pulpit preacher at White Station Church of Christ in Memphis where he and his wife, Nancy, attend. Prior to arriving in Tennessee, he served as professor at Columbia Christian College and pulpit preacher for Eastside Church of Christ, both in Portland, Ore.
The couple has three sons, Nathan, Justin, and BJ, who are alumni of the University, and two grandchildren.
College of Business Administration
Currently serving as chief financial officer of Sam’s Club, Brett Biggs (’90) is responsible for all financial activities and strategy for the company. Prior to that, Biggs served in various capacities within Wal-Mart Corp., including senior vice president, global finance and senior vice president, international strategy, and mergers and acquisitions.
On the international side, he led the strategy and execution for Wal-Mart’s entry into Japan and India as well as acquisitions and partnerships in China, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Central America.
Before joining Wal-Mart in 2000, Biggs held various mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance positions with Leggett & Platt, Phillips Petroleum Co. and Price Waterhouse.
Biggs also serves as chairman of the board for the nonprofit organization MANA, which stands for Mother Administered Nutritive Aid. The goal of this organization is to eradicate world malnutrition, specializing in the production and delivery of a peanut-based, ready-to-use therapeutic food to malnourished children all over the world.
Additionally, he is a deacon at Southside Church of Christ in Rogers, Ark. He and his wife, Kara, have two children, Hadley and Ainsley.
College of Communication
As international editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Yavonda Fletcher (’99) Chase brings news from around the world into the homes of thousands of Arkansans every day. Her main responsibilities include selecting international and national stories for the paper. Prior to working as international editor, Chase was national editor and copy editor, joining the newspaper in 2000. She also blogs for LittleRockMamas.com, a Central Arkansas forum for mothers.
In 2008, she was able to travel to Turkey with the International Reporting Project’s Gatekeeper trip. Operating out of The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, the program emphasizes the “nonprofit journalism” movement, striving to reduce the gap in mainstream international news coverage.
She and her husband, Matthew, have been married five years and have one daughter, Alaina. They attend Windsong Church of Christ.
College of Education
College of Education
Having filled several roles within education, Janice Oneida (’88) Stewart has been dedicated to enriching the lives of her students. Currently the elementary principal for White County (Ark.) Central School, Stewart has also served as elementary principal for the Bradford (Ark.) school district.
Prior to becoming principal, she was a bookkeeper and third-grade teacher for White County Central, as well as sixth-grade teacher for Kensett (Ark.) School District. She was honored at White County Central by being named employee of the year and Future Farmers of America volunteer of the year, and also winning a literacy award.
Outside the classroom, Stewart is actively involved in the Three Rivers Reading Association, Great Bear Writing Association, the National Writing Project, and White County Creative Writers. She also gives her time to Backpack Buddies, which partners her congregation, Steprock Church of Christ, with the White County Central School District.
She and her husband, Jackie, have two sons: John and Jamey, who is deceased.
College of Nursing
Serving as a missionary alongside her late husband, Henry, from 1964-1996, Grace Johnson (’48) Farrar has traveled around the globe to help those sick and hurting. The couple began their medical missions in Aba, Nigeria, where they helped establish Nigerian Christian Hospital. After the Biafran War caused them to leave, they returned in 1971 to help reactivate the hospital. There, Farrar assisted in village outpatient clinics and taught primary health care workers. Later medical tours included visits to Tanzania, China and Cameroon. Her medical experience within the states includes working on the newborn nursery staff and night supervisor.
Now retired, Farrar speaks at numerous lectureships and has been published in several magazines telling the story of her traveling missionary family.
Farrar is a member of College Hills Church of Christ in Lebanon, Tenn., and has six children — Paul, David, Lee, Martha Highfield, Hank and Samantha Hayner — and six grandchildren.
College of Sciences
Born in Eilaboun, Israel, Dr. Swaid Swaid (’73) moved to the United States when he was 15 years old. After graduating from the University, he immediately entered medical school at University of Alabama at Birmingham, moving on to an internship in general surgery at University of California in San Diego prior to returning to UAB’s School of Medicine to complete a neurosurgery residency where he was chief neurosurgical resident. He is board-certified in neurosurgery.
He has received many honors, has published extensively and is a frequent speaker at various seminars. Swaid is a member of the American Medical Association, the Alabama Neurosurgical Association, the Southern Medical Association, the Jefferson County Medical
Society and is a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons, among others.
He and his wife, Christy, have five children — Courtney, Amanda, Taylor, Christian and Cason — and are members of Homewood Church of Christ in Birmingham, Ala.
Dr. Phillip Goad (‘77) and his partners own and operate the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH) headquartered in Little Rock, Ark., and are called upon whenever a chemical release poses an environmental threat. On April 25th — five days after the Deepwater Horizon rig caught fire — CTEH mobilized to the Gulf region to begin surveying the environmental damage that had been done.
Stretching from Galveston, Texas, to the Florida panhandle, the almost-1,100 team members of CTEH have a long list of tasks. “We are doing the community air monitoring along the Gulf, and we are doing industrial hygiene air monitoring for the individuals who are involved in cleaning up the oil that impacts the beach or the near shore,” Goad says. In addition to air sampling, the group tests water and beach sediment along the shore and provides reports to the “unified command spearheaded by the Coast Guard.” CTEH also provides safety observations for all onshore and near-shore recovery efforts.
Goad serves as principle toxicologist for CTEH. “The testing that we’re doing and the testing that Environmental Protection Agency and others are doing is looking for particular chemicals that may be part of the oil that spilled or, in regard to the water sampling, the dispersants that are used. When we’re doing air testing, we’re also looking for the kinds of chemicals that could be generated when the oil is burned on top of the water.”
Although the incident itself is tragic, good news can be gleaned from the gathered data. “The fact that the oil is escaping a mile below the surface and then also many miles out from the shore is helpful. The water has already removed a number of the chemicals that would normally get into the air for people to breathe by the time the oil makes it up to the surface of the water,” Goad states. “Once it reaches the surface, it undergoes a process of weathering that involves action of the sun, the water, the waves, the biological microorganisms begin to act on that oil. Within 24 to 48 hours most of the other components that pose the greatest concern for public health have been removed.”
Since the well was contained in July, Goad’s team is in the process of scaling back their Gulf efforts. However, while the oil may no longer be leaking, there is still work to be done. “We will likely have people involved in this for months, if not years, to come. As long as there’s oil that has impacted any location and people out there retrieving it, there will be safety personnel involved. I suspect that until the last bit of oil is removed, there will be continued community and environmental monitoring, all of which we’re involved in. So we expect to be out there for the long term.”
Enhancing the Mission
Test your wills knowledge
By Ted Hackney, director of the Center for Charitable Estate Planning
The following true or false quiz will help you measure how much you know — or don’t know — about having a will. To see how you did, check the answers below.
True or False
1. Most states will honor a handwritten will as long as it is signed by an attorney.
2. A married couple only needs to have one will.
3. If a person dies without a will, the state automatically takes one-half of the estate for probate fees.
4. It is illegal to open and read a deceased person’s will until after the funeral.
5. A codicil is the stamped impression that makes a will valid.
All of the answers are false.
1. While some states may recognize a handwritten will, no state requires that a will must be signed by an attorney.
2. Each partner in the marriage should have his or her own will.
3. While it is true that the state, in the absence of a valid will, dictates the disposition of the estate, it does not automatically receive half the amount. However, if you die with no will, there may be a large increase in probate costs.
4. A will can be opened and read any time after death, or earlier, with appropriate permission.
5. A codicil is an addendum added later to a previously prepared will.
To learn more about wills and other estate planning matters, request your free wills guide by calling our toll-free number at 800-477-4213, option 3, or e-mail us at email@example.com