Harding Magazine Winter 2010

What did you receive from Harding that you VALUE most?

Bell towerSure, you loved Harding, but what stuck with you through the years? We asked you to share what you VALUE from your college days.
Here’s your reply.

Inspired influence

The lives of Harding officials and teachers were paramount in showing me the Lord. These lives flooded me with inspiration, the most valuable “tool” I received from the school.

I see consistent Dean L.C. Sears, the embodiment of Harding’s infancy. His being at Cordell, Harper and Morrilton — as well as Searcy — gave him the perspective we needed in order to appreciate what we had in Searcy. His memories of and connections with J.N. Armstrong and James A. Harding made them come alive and allowed close feelings with these Restoration giants, thanks to the vivid portraits of them painted by Sister Woodson Armstrong, him and others.

I see George Benson, whose life and works in China, the Far East and Africa were more important to me than even his life and valuable works as president of the college.

I see Cliff Ganus, whose humility and generosity stand shoulder to shoulder with his matchless breadth of knowledge, experience and devotion to God.

I see Joe Pryor, whose Christ-like heart disciplined his brilliant mind into a servant the likes of which will be impossible to replicate.

I see Kenneth Davis, whose visage and devotion indelibly explained choral expressions such as “come into the mountain of the Lord” and many others as he directed us.

I see Jimmy Allen, whose love for the souls of men called him to domains unknown to most — from teaching sixth-graders Bible when he was a new Christian to bringing octogenarians to the Lord when he himself was well beyond his own threescore and 10.

Most clearly, I see Andy Ritchie and Hugh Groover, whose lives daily welcomed the spirit of the Lord. It is difficult to use words that express their Godly influence on me — and on thousands of others.

— Gerald Casey (’61)

Christian relationships

The Christian relationships I formed while at Harding are the memories that have stuck with me the most. I also recall with fondness many events which helped me form those relationships: lily pool devotionals, A Cappella Chorus and tours with Uncle Bud, Harding University in Florence, chapel, international campaigns to England and Australia, campus ministry, prayer nights held in Shores Chapel, Wednesday night home Bible study, social club outings and devotionals, Spring Sing practices and performances, Lectureships, dorm life, studying in the library and fellowshipping there when a break from studies was needed, travels to the Tulsa Workshop, road trips on weekends, talks on the front lawn and in Harding swings, eating in the old Pattie Cobb cafeteria, devotionals in the stairwell of the renovated Pattie Cobb dorm, and so much more.

It was at Harding that I began to grow closer to God by praying with my Christian brothers and sisters and by seeing the relationships some of my peers had with God. My eyes were opened to the world God loves through the missionaries who taught us, such as Van Tate and Monte Cox (’81), and through my travels with international campaigns and with A Cappella Chorus in Europe. Thank you, Harding, for shaping my life with wonderful memories and people who influenced me, both teachers and students.

— Tracey Turner Dannels (’89)

Continual blessings

I arrived in Searcy a day after classes began by way of a Greyhound bus late one night in August 1987. I didn’t know where to go even though I was only a block from campus. I was disoriented in more ways than one. Just a week after graduating Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island and three months from having been a ward of the state of Florida, uncertainty swirled around me like a storm. Over the next eight years (it seemed I really was “educating for eternity”), the Harding community blessed me in ways that I’m still benefiting from. My Christianity matured, my focus improved, my sense of love and belonging developed — and the academics were good enough that I’ve been well employed ever since. That dazed kid with the buzz cut and sea bag didn’t know how good he had it.

— Dana Deree (’92)

God doing the impossible

It was 33 years ago that I arrived on the campus of Harding with just a suitcase and a fan, although I’m not exactly sure about the fan! I came by faith because I was told that there was not any room for me. I credit Jimmy Allen with helping me get enrolled and finding a place in a dorm to live — perhaps because I wanted to major in Bible. It was a giant leap of faith, as I came from what most people would consider the “wrong side of the tracks.” My hair came halfway down my back, and I had experimented with drugs during most of my teenage years. I wasn’t considered college material by any standard, but God had other plans. He saw the potential in me and helped me graduate with honors from Harding and the Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tenn.

The Harding experience continues to amaze me every day as I draw from it and the wonderful friendships cultivated there. I now have had the honor of sending my own children to Harding and watching them both graduate with honors and marry Christian spouses. Furthermore, as an elder of the Lord’s church, I still see God doing the impossible every day as he did with me so many years ago. God bless the men and women who sacrificed so much to make Harding a unique experience for a young person’s journey of faith.

 — Danny Duncan (’80)

Sweet influences

Brother Leslie Burke was a great Greek teacher, a beautiful Christian and a devout servant of Jesus. I owe him so much because I taught Greek for almost 50 years at the Bible chair at Eastern New Mexico University and Rochester College along with Bible, church history and archaeology.

I had great discussions many nights in the old army huts and later in the dorm with Marion Hickingbottom (’50), Les Perrin (’50), Chick Allison (’53) and others. I would not give anything for that fellowship.

— Steve Eckstein (’49)

A merciful tool

Roll, roll back, clock. Roll back to when I had one chin, when I was thin, when my sweetheart and I walked uneasily the walks of the campus eager to impress the other. What sweet sadness gathers around my older throat and gratitude for a place that filled my empty spots with goodness, knowledge, noble themes and high principles. It seemed hard, but all was done in love.

Youth is gone, naivety, easy belief. We don’t worry for ourselves, but ours, just as those worried for us and not themselves. We were sent, dropped off, kept in prayer, and, because our hearts were open, the place did the trick. Thank God it was here. Thank God that people sacrificed to make this space.

Our time here we can’t repeat, that messy convergence of people and choices. It is holy and whole in my mind and sweet and sad because since, life has happened. All were young, hopeful, untested, uninjured, happy and anxious to be beginning.

This place is still here. It stays; you don’t. You can’t move on and stay. But to this day, impossible as it may be, I want to stay. Stay; hover over the sweet unrepeatable moments. But my Harding isn’t there anymore. It’s in my sweetheart and in me shared and visited —  impractical, unproductive, but there. Imprinted on each cell of our college children. They bear the marks of the merciful tool God used in forming them.

The taste prepared us for a feast that cannot be eaten here. It draws me on to that place: Thank God it’s there. Thank God the sacrifice that makes it possible.

— Mark Finn (’82)

Strong investment

My wife and I did not attend Harding University. However, all four of our children attended. This was one of the best investments we ever made.

The dividend: One Harding daughter-in-law, three Harding son-in-laws, and, as a bonus, we have 16 grandchildren. All of the above that are of accountability ages are faithful Christians.

Added to all of these benefits, I have had the opportunity to serve as one of the trustees for the past 20 years with some of the nicest people one will ever meet.

May God continue to bless Harding University.

— Mel Gardner

The right place

We came to Harding College as a young married couple midterm 1958. We were among the first couples to move into the new married students apartments (that were recently demolished) where we immediately met other couples who built their lives around Christian principles. We were “blown away” by the emphasis on the Lord, the fellowship of Christian students being together, and the atmosphere it provided. It was truly amazing, and we immediately knew we had found the right place for our education.

Through our continued contact with Harding in the years that followed, we became even more “sold.” This created a great desire to share the experience with our children and to pass it on to others. I guess it was noticed. One business associate during the 80’s said to me in front of several others, “Lathan, we know church of Christ Christians die and go to Harding.” Well, we did move back to Searcy when I retired, and we plan to be buried here. My wife, Barbara, stated it like this, “The spiritual experience of being together 24/7 with others my age that loved the Lord and wanted to worship and share their heartfelt feelings daily made me want to pass on the value of such an experience.”

We have been blessed. Our four sons all attended Harding. Two of our grandchildren graduated in 2008, and another grandson is a student.

— Lathan Garnett (’61)

A firm foundation

The “Harding Experience” was the foundational point, which led to all of my other experiences, making them richer and more fulfilling.

— Bill Ivey (’70)

Passing it on

“Near the foothills of the Ozarks …” lies a place, an institution, a legacy named Harding University.

The numerous memories that I carry with me of my college days include green beans and mystery meat in Pattie Cobb dining hall; spontaneous devotionals around the lily pool (into which I was thrown upon my engagement to my wife by club “friends”); Monday night meetings in the balcony of Administration Auditorium (where my wife and I had our first “date”); wearing the TNT toilet-paper-roll hat with pins protruding from it to keep club rivals from swiping it off my head during pledge week; Uncle Bud’s constantly wanting more consonants in chorus; being part of two NAIA national championship teams in bowling; lettering two years in intramural sports (including pingpong championships my junior and senior years — some thought I majored in intramurals for awhile); and soaking it all in at the feet of Christian professors such as Neale Pryor, Ray Muncy and Nyal Royse. Those were the days, my friends.

I suppose the most valuable assets of my years as a Bison were my undergraduate and graduate degrees that have led to my 32-year career as an educator and my wife, Delores Hawkins (’72), to whom I have been married for more than 38 years.

However, most of the above would have to take second place to the pride I have felt in my children. All four have decided to engage in the Harding experience. Actually the first three have graduated; the fourth is now a senior. I hope someday the Lord will allow me the thrill of knowing that my grandchildren are also part of the Bison herd.

— Kerbe Lee (’71)

The man of my dreams

I value most my dear darling husband, Morgan Richardson (’55), happy memories and lifelong friendships. 

— Andee King Richardson (’57)

Keeping the tradition alive

The thing I value most is carrying on our family tradition.

My grandparents, Tom and Emma McReynolds, lived in Morrilton, Ark., when the school was still called Arkansas Christian College. My dear granddad served on the board for many years, even after the move to Searcy.

My father, Hubert McReynolds (’35), attended Harding and there met and married my mother, Juanita Fields (’37), in 1935.

Growing up in Texas, my brother, Jim, and I loved going to camp Wyldewood, and when I got too old to be a camper, I served as a counselor.

In fall 1958, I entered Harding as a freshman, and my room was just down the hallway from my mother’s room in Pattie Cobb Hall.

I met and married my husband, Larry Hand (’61), while both of us were students at Harding.

Always, precious memories will be in my heart for Harding.

— Miriam Hand Richardson (’62)

Direction and purpose

Eternal life! Have you, as I, ever wondered, “If?” If I had stayed at home, worked on the farm, continued a purposeless existence, would I still be alive physically? Certainly not spiritually.

I graduated from high school, and I had my designs set on Kent State University, which I attended four quarters as a number only, not a name. My soul was in turmoil. I had no purpose, no direction. One night on a return trip home, I visited with a former high school student who was attending Harding. He was so positive and upbeat. I told him about my discouragement at KSU. He said, “Why don’t you attend Harding?”

I read the catalog with all its rules and regulations and thought, “No way! It’s a prison.” However, I did go back to KSU with much to think about. During my fourth quarter, a third roommate was added to my room who had recently lost her mother to cancer. She was mature, she was quality, and she was a daily Bible reader. Carol’s character and influence got me into Bible reading. My troubled soul led me back to Harding’s catalog and to a sudden withdrawal from KSU. The reason? “I am going to Harding to become a missionary.” I wasn’t even a Christian.

I enrolled at Harding in January 1959, became a Christian on Feb. 28, and the rest has become a lifelong, peaceful journey of ups and downs, but certainly a life filled with direction and purpose.

— Marjorie Hayes Ryan (’61)

Spiritual growth

After graduating from Lubbock Christian College in 1965 with an Associate of Applied Arts degree and being discharged in Germany from the U.S. Army to attend the second half of Pepperdine University’s initial year in Europe program at Heidelberg, Germany, I traveled from Lubbock, Texas, to attend Harding. In 1965 the World Missions Conference, which rotated to all Christian colleges associated with churches of Christ, was to be held there.

The greatest contribution to my scriptural growth was the fact that during my two years at Harding I was allowed to preach at three small churches: Eglantine, Ark., then at a congregation 30 miles from Searcy, and finally at Four Mile Hill Church of Christ, which, at the time, was meeting in an old house, planning to build their new church building. I was able to serve as their first minister and later in the year as their first youth director.

— H. Clovis Shipp (’67)

Seeds that keep on growing

While at Harding, I struggled with the knowledge that I was somehow different from those around me in the depths beneath my average-looking outward appearance. I was not yet aware of being a person with more pronounced disabilities than most folk and assumed that it was my cross to bear that I felt different. My challenges made a lot of people uncomfortable and yet they gave me mental, emotional, physical and spiritual seeds to ease my journey. It took the marvels of modern medical science after my graduation from Harding to help me understand how precious those seeds were and to guide me in weeding out and otherwise preparing the soil of my life in which to plant them. I was stunned to experience their growth as they gave me an ever-widening worldview, a continuous opening of my heart to the awareness of constant spiritual guidance, and other gifts that keep on giving. Their beauty made me less sensitive to how I or others perceived me and  focused my attention instead on the sensitivities of others as they experienced God’s amazing grace at work in their lives through the acts of service in which I am involved.

As a theatre major at Harding, I was often on stage. Now I am blessed to work behind the scenes of life in planting the descendants of the seeds I was given — seeds of God’s righteousness to help free those enslaved by prejudice, discrimination and biases due to other people’s perception of their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual challenges. How can I not but treasure these gifts that keep on giving above all the other wonderful experiences I had at Harding? What joy it is to know that God leads me, just as I am, to experience His amazing grace forever and ever. Thanks to all of you for the seeds you gave.

— Keith Sliter (’83)

Christian worldview

Harding gave me a most valuable “worldview from a Christian perspective.” It was through international travel with Dr. Kenneth Davis Jr. and the Harding A Cappella Chorus that I was introduced to a world beyond the USA. This awakening ultimately led my family and me into international missions and subsequently into medical missions in Africa where we are now serving. My Harding mentors and a special Harding network of Christian friends were, and still are, invaluable assets in the sometimes daunting, yet rewarding, work of a medical missionary. I urge Harding students to “come and see.” They, too, can make a difference for Christ in a mission setting. 

— Danny Smelser (’73)

Friendships above all

I thought my world had ended when I graduated from high school in 1941. It was just beginning. Those whom I had known in the earliest years of my life became entities less recalled as I formed relationships more spiritually based during four wonderful years at Harding. My horizons were expanding in every good way.

Daily chapel services, Bible classes, and the sweetest singing I had ever heard were bread to my hungry soul. Selfless, sacrificing teachers showed me a more excellent way, and I yet cherish those dedicated servants of The Most High.

As the Psalmist (37:25) has indelibly set forth, “I was young, and now I am old.” My perspective has become more clearly defined and set as the years have come and gone with “swiftness of a weaver’s shuttle.” I recently told one of life’s dearest and trusted friends, “We were boys together, and now we are old men, nearing the last boundary of life, and our friendship has stood the tests of time.”

This is the stuff of which eternal life is compounded: the friendships we created more than 65 years ago as part of the Harding experience are certainly to be valued highly, perhaps most highly of all.

— George Tipps (’45) 

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