Harding Magazine


Profile: Larry Harris 1972
Alma matters
Profile: Amy Blankenship Sewell 1988
Focus on the future

PROFILE: Larry Harris, 1972

Making the twilight years sparkle

When Larry Harris graduated from the University, working in a nursing home was "the last thing on [his] list of potential professions." However, Harris quickly adopted this distinctive ministry as his own.

Larry HarrisAs chief executive officer of Willow Brook Christian Communities in Delaware, Ohio, Harris compares his job to "being mayor of a small town," often responding to the needs of his residents.

A nonprofit, churches of Christ-funded project, Willow Brook serves as a mission field. "We are doing some good for people," Harris says. "We are making sure that our residents have a positive environment and somewhere to be well cared for until the very end."

Harris entered the Willow Brook family at age 25. "I kind of grew up with Willow Brook," he says. "As I have gained experience, Willow Brook has grown and added new ministries. I have made it my life's work."

When he began as administrator, nursing homes were seen as "dark, dirty, stinky places where you went to die," but  Harris wanted to make Willow Brook different. "It's more like a nice hotel where people are cared for," he says, describing carpeted floors, a generous number of nurses, and the absence of typical nursing home odor.

In his time, Harris has seen many residents come and go — all of whom have left their mark. While the passing of residents proves to be one of the difficulties of his job, the other is raising funds for his mission. "The opportunities to serve those people can be very limited," he remarks.

Willow Brook tries to help any and all who come through its doors to fund their stay through charitable gifts, internal support or government programs. Harris says, "The truth is that we are doing a fine job caring for people who can pay, but I wonder if we can't be doing more for those who can't  afford to take advantage of Willow Brook."

Looking toward the future, Harris wants to add a low-income apartment complex to the three other Willow Brook campuses. The various sites include independent- and assisted-living residences, a nursing home, adult day care, an Alzheimer's care unit, restaurants, and fitness centers.

The most priceless component of the communities is the staff. "We have a terrific team here," notes Harris. "There is this loving, caring spirit that most of our people exude. People who visit can sense that there is something different about Willow Brook."

Harris' servant nature has also made the difference at Willow Brook. Although he is CEO, he strives to help his managers and directors become servants as well. "I am a servant of all 250 people who work in my organization," he says. "Ultimately, I want my leaders to be servants of the masses." 

— Jennifer Hannigan



Women who make a difference

By Liz Howell, director of alumni relations

Liz HowellThe University's history reveals many women who have gone the distance for Christian education.

Our four first ladies — Woodson Harding Armstrong, Sallie Hockaday Benson, Louise Nicholas ('42) Ganus and Leah Gentry ('65) Burks — have been rocks of support during their husbands' presidencies. These women have been called to do things they could not have dreamed or imagined.

Before his death in 1944, our first president, J.N. Armstrong, penned these words about his wife, and his sentiments apply to all of our first ladies: "She has been my full partner in these long years — where I have been lacking, she has been strong. And I have said many times that she has been worth more to our work than I have been. Largely I have received whatever honor the public bestowed, and she has always been the silent partner. Every true wife carries the big end of the stick. This cannot be helped; however, many men would like it otherwise. We have loved our work. To us, ours has been a rich life — a life full of burdens, hardships and cares mingled with joys and satisfactions."

Florence Cathcart ('32) was professor of education and dean of women from 1939-54. Cathcart was a Renaissance woman with many talents. She co-wrote the University's alma mater with L.O. Sanderson ('28) and made sure the grounds were beautiful by planting roses on the front lawn. She also had a heart for the female students and often referred to them as "the sweetest girls in the world." A residence hall named in her honor serves as a reminder of her many contributions.

Another group of women who has made a significant contribution to the University is Associated Women for Harding. For more than 43 years, these women have raised more than $1 million for scholarships and special projects.

One of their most successful endeavors is publishing cookbooks. Elaine Camp ('41) Thompson, Pat Marshall, Lynn Alexander ('60) England, Mae Anne Songer ('52) Tucker and Cindy Howard ('86) Gurchiek served as editors and assistant editors of the first three cookbooks. Sisters Betty Clark ('59) Goyne and Dee Clark ('63) Burke recently finished volume four, which will be available in the spring. Countless women served by submitting or collecting recipes while others helped by checking and proofreading them. The books have a great reputation because of the outstanding cooks in the Harding family. If you would like to order a copy of the new cookbook, call 800-477-4312, ext. 1.

We express our thanks to all women who have gathered their strength, set aside excuses, and stopped waiting for someone else to get the job done to continue the mission of our University.


PROFILE: Amy Blankenship Sewell, 1988

Shopping with style

Like many others, Amy Blankenship Sewell begins most mornings with a news show. However, unlike those who enjoy the news in their pajamas curled up with a cup of coffee, Sewell is on-set and on the air.

Amy SewellFounder and president of the Manhattan-based company Shop With Style, Sewell shares advice on lifestyle topics such as food, fashion, home decor, gifts and general shopping tips on morning shows across the country.

She started down her career path after graduation, working on Capitol Hill as press secretary for a  Missouri congressman. However, New York City beckoned her, and she moved to the city to work with a trade association. There for nine years, Sewell realized her passion for providing valuable consumer information through TV segments.

With this fervor, she began building her own company. "I love doing the on-air appearances," Sewell says. "I work with terrific people at the stations, and I have wonderful clients who have great products, which really makes the difference."

 Sewell's job is seldom boring. She may showcase Bed Bath & Beyond's dorm-room decor one morning and demonstrate how to grill an Omaha steak the next. "Whether showing an appliance or preparing a certain recipe, I have to be knowledgeable about what I'm showcasing," she says. "I really love that because my work is always new."

In addition to sharing information about products with consumers, Sewell gives a variety of information to her TV audience. Around Halloween, she shares safety tips for children when they go trick-or-treating. She also helps viewers minimize their grocery spending and budget their money during tough economic times.

"There's a lot I really enjoy doing in addition to product promotion that is just giving basic information for people to use, whether saving money or shopping smarter," notes Sewell.

She attributes the success of her business to her varied career path. "Everything I do now is building on everything I did before this," she says. "It took me 18 years in other jobs before I was prepared enough to start this one. I started at just the right time."

As to the future, Sewell is hopeful and flexible. "I plan to follow this wherever it goes, working on my own and with the media."

— Jennifer Hannigan



An unexpected gift — income for life

By Ted Hackney, director of the Center for Charitable Estate Planning

Ted HackneyIf you are tired of the stock market roller coaster, Harding can offer you guaranteed fixed income for life.

Most people are surprised to learn they can give to the University and receive cash back. While supporting Harding's mission, you may also receive valuable tax savings, capital gains benefits and income for life.

Try a gift annuity
A gift annuity is a contract between you and Harding in which you make a gift, and the University agrees to pay you fixed income for life at a rate based on your age. You receive an income tax deduction and may even avoid capital gains tax on a gift of appreciated property.

Example: Martha Lincoln, age 74
Guaranteed 6.6 percent return annually
(65.3 percent of income is TAX FREE)
Gift to Harding: $100,000 
Charitable deduction: $43,537

Another income alternative?
The charitable remainder trust

Like a gift annuity, a charitable remainder trust provides you with a current tax deduction, possible capital gains tax savings, and regular income. Certain plans permit you to make gifts of real estate and unique properties.

Whether a gift annuity or charitable trust appeals to you, this is a good time to accurately assess your financial situation and create financial security for yourself and your family. Please call me at 501-279-4861 or e-mail thackney@harding.edu to discuss these or other ways of giving.                       



Public Relations