American Studies Institute


The American Studies Institute traces its roots to a program at Harding University that began in 1953 as the School of American Studies. Initiated to work toward bringing about a better understanding of the American way of life, the program had an impact on the education of every student. In the ensuing years, the program of American Studies at Harding has become one of the most-honored programs of its kind in the nation.

Mission Statement

The American Studies Institute is to be an educational bastion to the broad countercultural trends that we see sweeping our nation from one decade to the next. Its answer is to go back to the fundamental values that made this country great. As Dr. George S. Benson, the late president in Harding University, first articulated as Constitutional Government, Capitalism, and Christianity. From these three C’s, American Studies Institute can see a multitude of values flow such as a respect for authority, respect for human life, the work ethic, and discipline.

This long-established tradition continues to be highlighted by its marquee, Distinguished Lectureship Series, and emphasis on educational programs, such as the National Leadership Forum and the Belden Center for Private Enterprise Education. For the future, efforts are being explored, such as the Sino American Studies Institute.

Harding University will always uphold and study America’s role it plays in making this country and the world a better place in which to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Historical Synopsis

The American Studies Distinguished Lecture Series has had 500+ distinguished lecturers on campus over all of these years.  An example of the quality of the lectures in illustrated by the following list: Gerald Ford, William Crowe, Dan Quayle, Lynne Cheney, Helmut Schmidt, Benazir Bhutto, Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney, Margaret Thatcher, George Bush, John Major, Colin Powell, Lech Walesa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Barbara Bush, Malcolm S. Forbes Jr., and Brian Mulroney.  Further evidence of the American Studies Institute program being the marquee program of the university, it has been awarded Freedom Foundation medals from the very earliest to date to a total of over 45, for contribution to the community and country.

1925 Dr. George S. Benson goes to China as a missionary and personally experiences Communism and Socialism    

1936 Dr. George S. Benson returns to Harding University as the university’s second president; Dr. Benson established his National Education Program (NEP), emphasizing Godliness and Patriotism and his three C’s of Constitutional Government, Capitalism, and Christianity (over 25 million people a week came in contact with Dr. Benson’s thoughts on these through his radio program and publications)

1936 Dr. Kimmerer of Princeton University; first American Studies speaker

1949 First Freedom’s Foundation medal awarded to Harding University by General Dwight D. Eisenhower

1952 School of American Studies established; Dr. Clifton L. Ganus named Dean

1953 First educational tour for students

1954 American Studies for Teachers program begun

1956 Youth Citizenship Seminar began for High School juniors and seniors

1965 Dr. Billy Ray Cox named Director of the American Studies program

1973 Management Seminars begun as a part of the American Studies program

1979 The Dell Belden Center for Free Enterprise Education was established

1982 Lecture Studio Library was begun; Dr. David B. Burks, Dean of the School of Business, named director of the program

1985 The Walton program was established

1987 American Studies Program changed to American Studies Institute and an advisory board was formed with Co-Chairmen Jack Stephens and Sam Walton

1987 Dr. Jim Carr named Director of the American Studies Institute and Dr. Bob Reely named Executive Associate Director

1988 American Studies Institute Conference Center was established

1988 Arkansas American Legion Auxiliary Girls’ State

1990 American Studies Distinguished Student upper level Honors program formed

1992 Arkansas State Special Olympics hosted by the American Studies Institute

1992 Stephens Scholars Program begun

1993 Youth Citizenship Seminar (YCS) changed to National Leadership Forum (NLF)

1993 Summer Economics Institute for Teachers had begun, graduating approximately 25 teachers a year for seven years totaling of 175 graduates, influencing as many as 150 students per year, giving a multiplier of possibly thousands of students to be influenced in Economic Education

1999 Arkansas Home School Conference hosted by Conference Center

2004 Sino/American Studies Institute began. Presently, 16 Chinese scholars have graduated from Harding University and there are 36 that are currently enrolled

2006 National Leadership Forum celebrating its 50th Anniversary with approximately 10,000+ High School students influenced over these years in godliness and patriotism


The benefits of the American Studies Institute have been visibly significant. Unequaled educational opportunities have been provided to students in many disciplines. The program has a long-standing tradition of recognition from the Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge, Pa., receiving numerous awards in the area of community service. The program itself, along with faculty and administrators at Harding have won a Freedoms Foundation award every year for the past 44 years.

Harding's continuing emphasis on the principles of freedom has made an indelible mark on students through the years. Their influence continues to permeate and influence those around them.

The American Studies Institute at Harding University is truly unique, bringing national opinion leaders in business and politics to local constituents. Harding was a pioneer, and continues to be a leader, in the promotion of free enterprise education, preparing students to build a better nation. The expanded services of the American Studies Institute assure that these goals will continue to be achieved.



Mr. and Mrs. Blair Bryan
Mrs. June Carter
Coca-Cola Refreshments
First Security Bank
Mrs. Margaret Helms
Dr. Robert and Bonnie Hooper
Mr. and Mrs. Jack McNutt


Dr. Kyle and Kellee Blickenstaff
Mr. and Mrs. Larry Boone
Mr. and Mrs. Brad Bradley
Dr. David and Leah Burks
Mr. and Mrs. Byron Carlock Jr.
Dr. Jim and Maralyn Citty
Drs. Richard and Debbie Duke
First Community Bank
Mr. and Mrs. Topper Long
Mr. and Mrs. Paul Maynard
Dr. Bruce and Ann McLarty  
Mr. and Mrs. Roger McMennamy
Mrs. Treva Pryor    
Regions Bank   
SCM Architects PLLC    
Mr. and Mrs. Jody Venkatesan
Mr. and Mrs. Lynn Wright Jr.
Unity Health
Young America’s Foundation
White River Flooring 


Dr. Glen and Nancy Blue
Johnny Brock Excavating    
Dr. Cliff and Louise Ganus
Mr. and Mrs. Blake Hendrix
Mr. and Mrs. John Howard
Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Leggett
Mr. and Mrs. Lundy Neely
Mr. and Mrs. Greg Niblock
Mrs. Lois Schwartz   
Simmons First Bank   
Dr. Mark and Connie White   


Drs. Tommy and Martha Bush
Dr. Jim and Susan Carr
Dr. Kris and Jenny Citty
Dr. Jared and Casey Cox
Mr. and Mrs. Larry Crain
Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Davis
Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Dell
Scott and Cheryl Finley
Mr. and Mrs. C. Alvin Fowler Jr.  
International EZUP Inc.    
Dr. Mike and Elaine Justus
Brett and Kim Kirkman   
Kelly and Anna Koonce
Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Ray
Mr. and Mrs. J. Guilford Rice
David and Jo-Ann Ridings  
Dr. Jack and Marjorie Ryan           
Bill Spear III    
John and Grace Steuri   
Wayne Stover
The Bug Man Inc. of Searcy
Mr. and Mrs. David Waldron
Maj. Dennis and Dr. Cheri Yecke   


Mr. and Mrs. David Allen      
Dr. and Mrs. Finis Bailey
Mrs. Patricia Berry
Dr. Rich and Laura Brown
Mr. and Mrs. Brant Bryan
Dr. Bryan and Laura Burks
George Carder   
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Cargile
Charlie’s Auto Paint and Body
Dr. David and Beth Collins
Dr. and Mrs. Bob Corbin
Mr. and Mrs. Keith Cronk
Dr. Dan and Alisa Davidson
FL Davis Home Center
Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Dillard
Fran Dugger
Edward Jones  
Entergy Arkansas  
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Fielder  
Mr. and Mrs. Scott Finley   
Mr. and Mrs. Al Fowler Jr.   
Dr. Al and Pam Frazier
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Gallo
Larry and Virginia Hansen
Mr. and Mrs. Rick Harper
Dr. and Mrs. Budd Hebert     
Mr. and Mrs. James House   
J.R. and Dr. Kathy Howard
Charlie and Liz Howell
Dr. Allan and Carole Isom   
Drs. Fred and Alice Jewell  
Dr. Bruce and Lisa Johnson
Mr. and Mrs. Carl Lindsey   
Mr. and Mrs. Brian Maddox        
Dr. and Mrs. Edward McAdams  
Dr. and Mrs. Randy McLeod
Mike Millar   
Mr. and Mrs. Paul Morgan
Mossy Oak Properties   
Mr. and Mrs. Dan Newsom
Dr. Howard and Jane Norton
Mr. and Mrs. Joel Pritchett
Proctor & Gamble    
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Raley III
Dr. and Mrs. Bob Reely
Dr. and Mrs. Porter Rodgers   
Mr. and Mrs. Craig Russell   
Dr. Leon and Marilyn Sanderson
Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Sloan     
Mr. and Mrs. Ty Swindle   
Tipton & Hurst   
Zearl and Betty Watson   
Mr. and Mrs. Donald Wray
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Yarnell
Don and Doris Yates