Harding Magazine Winter 2010

masksUnmasking faculty alter egos

By Jennifer Hannigan

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … a professor?

For many students, the only side of a professor they see is the academic one. Although mild-mannered faculty by day, after the final bell rings, they have some unexpected identities outside the classroom, transforming from teacher to pilot, marathon runner, competition gardener, lead singer or figure skater — no phone booth or cape required.

Up, up and away
Dr. David Cole

David Cole

Since childhood, David Cole has been interested in flying, whether he was building model airplanes or launching rockets. “I thought being a pilot was out of my reach,” says the professor of chemistry.

However, one day while driving past the Searcy Municipal Airport, opportunity presented itself. “I saw a sign that said, ‘Learn to fly here!’ So I went in. A certified flight instructor said if I was really serious, then I needed to get the written part out of the way first.” With two months worth of studying and practice flights under his belt, Cole received his pilot’s license and was ready to fly solo. “My instructor said there was only one other person who had finished the course faster than I had.”

Now, he takes to the skies as much as he can, not only for the health of his plane but for himself as well. “With a plane like this, the worst thing you could do is not use it,” he says. “I’m happy flying. You get a different perspective at an altitude like that. You lose the petty things that are going on down on the surface.”

Cole especially enjoys long-distance flying, using the plane to go on trips or visit family. He also flies to help rescue and transport animals as a member of Animal Rescue Flights, a group who finds homes for dogs and cats in high-kill shelters. “[Sophomore] Ashel Parsons, who also flies, and I helped transport a dog from Northern Alabama to Tulsa, Okla.,” he says. “We flew the middle leg of the trip, from Millington, Tenn., to Harrison, Ark. That dog was probably my most interesting passenger.”

Rich BrownFaster than a speeding bullet
Dr. Rich Brown

While many people run to maintain their own health, Rich Brown finds himself running for the health of others, particularly those of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. Brown, who began running marathons in 1998, became a “St. Jude’s Hero” and raced in the 2002 Memphis Marathon to raise money for the facility. “I knew that the hospital was a great place, and I wanted to help,” Brown says. “The next year, I ran and raised $6,000. I was the second highest individual fundraiser.”

In addition to running in eight different marathons — which include the Boston Marathon — more than 20 times, Brown has raced in two 50Ks, a 50-mile race, and, most recently, the Arkansas Traveler 100-mile ultra-marathon in October 2009, which wound through the Ouachita Mountains west of Little Rock. “The race was fun,” says Brown. “I do plan to do it again next year. I finished 14th and in less than 24 hours at 23 hours and 35 minutes. I really wanted the belt buckle that goes to people finishing in less than 24 hours.”   

According to Brown, the first 84 miles of the race went very well, but once he paused at that mile’s rest stop, his leg muscles began to stiffen. “I could run, but it hurt, especially my left leg. It was like it was trying to shut down. The last 16 miles were hard.” Hoping that running would loosen his muscles, Brown pressed on, but the pain continued. Stopping to get a drink from his water bottle, he was passed by a fellow racer who gave Brown, what he says, was “one of the top five or six most influential statements for me this year. He said ‘Just keep moving. You can still get there under 24 hours.’” And with that, Brown decided, “Pain hurts, but it won’t kill you,” gritted his teeth and finished the race. “I was so very happy to be finished — so happy and so tired.” He was still feeling effects of the race three weeks later.

Although the Arkansas Traveler was not a St. Jude’s-sponsored race, Brown raised $3,500 for the hospital and earned $5,000 more when he ran the Memphis Marathon again in December.

Brown learned that, without his support group, he could not have achieved his goal, much like the children of St. Jude’s rely on fundraisers like Brown to aid them in their journey.

His St. Jude’s Hero Web page, www.mystjudeheroes.org/run100rich, raises awareness for the hospital and for his fundraising.

Alice JewellFlower power
Dr. Alice Jewell

What started out as a going-away present quickly grew into an enjoyable hobby for Alice Jewell.

When she and her husband, Fred, moved from Bloomington, Ind., to Searcy, her friend gave her some irises to plant in their new yard. “I started with her few irises and put them beside our sidewalk leading up to our porch,” says Jewell. “The second time she gave me some, I put them around our mailbox. The next time she gave me some, they came up the side of the driveway.”

Once her father-in-law began growing irises, the Jewells dug up both sides of their driveway to plant what he had given them. “It just grew from one year to the next. What started as one row around the mailbox is now 10 rows. When you drive by my house, all you see of the front yard is irises.”

For Jewell, it was the hardiness of the flower that enabled her to work them into her schedule yet still grow so many. “When I was teaching full time, as soon as the semester started, I was taking care of students and my children, and irises were not a priority. I did not have a lot of time to mess with flowers. I could work on them in the summertime, and they take care of themselves for most of the year with just a little bit of weeding.”

In addition to brightening her neighborhood with irises, Jewell enters them into local iris competitions. “The main reason for the iris show is to educate other people about how many kinds of flowers there are, and the goal is to encourage people to grow irises.” She has won Queen of Show and is frequently runner-up to the sweepstakes with the second highest number of blue ribbons. She has also traveled to the Iris Society’s national and regional conventions, the highlight for her being the national convention in Portland, Ore.

Demonstrating just how independent irises are, she and her husband were able to travel to Greece and teach for the University’s overseas program during spring 2009 and returned April 23, the day before the Searcy iris show. “I cut 12 irises and took them to the bank, and I got eight blue ribbons. They did their own thing without me here.”

Both Jewells retired at the end of the 2008-09 school year, so she is now able to spend more time with her flowers.

Devin SwindleAble to leap high notes
Devin Swindle

When Devin Swindle and a group of men started singing after worship at College and North Church of Christ in Mountain Home, Ark., he never imagined it would eventually lead to being a headlining cruise act. “We were just a group of older guys, standing around, singing out of songbooks because we liked to hear ourselves sing,” Swindle, assistant professor of Bible, says.

After he left that congregation to preach in Pocahontas, Ark., he was surprised when he began getting calls for the group to perform. “Six of the eight guys who were in the group originally had never held microphones,” he says.

By 2005, the group First Day as it now exists took shape. Harding alumni Bruce Caldwell (’84), Tim Martin (’84), Matt Nunnally (’97), and students Kyle Jones and Jeff Henig along with Swindle “perform 30 to 40 shows a year,” he says. “First Day sings in places where you couldn’t walk in and preach a sermon. It’s a full-fledged ministry.”

After a show at Mount Comfort Church of Christ in Fayetteville, Ark., the group was approached about performing on the Music Boat, hosted by Premier Christian Cruises. Setting sail May 4, 2009, First Day was listed alongside top Christian artists like MercyMe, tobyMac, Jars of Clay and BarlowGirl.

“We had three performances on the boat,” he says. “All artists had an autograph session. We were in the main dining hall, and there was the First Day table, the Audio Adrenaline table and the MercyMe table.” After the last fans received autographs, Swindle and the rest of First Day got up to get the other groups’ autographs. “That was the neatest part for me. When we weren’t singing, we got to hear these guys I listen to on the radio, and we got to meet and talk to them.”

As a result of the cruise, First Day has booked several shows and is excited to see what the future will bring. “We’re excited to have this opportunity to minister in a very unconventional way.”

Julie Hixson-WallaceSuper skater
Dr. Julie Hixson-Wallace

Growing up with three active brothers, Julie Hixson-Wallace, dean of the College of Pharmacy, did not consider herself athletic. It wasn’t until she discovered ice-skating that she found her niche.

“I was never really someone who played basketball or softball,” she says. “When I found skating, it was nice to discover that I could be athletic.”
Hixson-Wallace began skating at a young age at a rink close to her grandmother’s house in Charlotte, N.C. When her family moved to Atlanta, she began to devote more time and money to skating. “As I became a mid- to late-teenager and was working part time, I could pay for my own lessons and coaching because my parents weren’t really able to do that,” she says. “I had some disposable income of my own, and that’s what I wanted to do with it.”

Skating as a member of the Ice-Skating Institute of America, she competed in skating events across the country. “When I skated early on, I started doing pairs skating, dance and freestyle. I would usually compete in all three at most of the competitions we went to.”

It was through skating that Hixson-Wallace met her husband, Ralph. “I was always doing pairs or dance with somebody else. And over time, I ended up doing pairs with him. Toward the end of our careers, we skated pairs more because we both enjoyed that, and we could be together.”

Since moving to Searcy, the couple has had to find ways to work skating in wherever they go. Whether skating at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs — the training grounds for many Olympic skaters — or volunteering at national skating competitions, Hixson-Wallace still finds time to skate.

She even had the opportunity to skate in Searcy during 2008’s ice storm. “There was really thick ice on the streets, so I skated on our driveway and the street. I can say I’ve skated in Searcy now.”

Still on the ice occasionally, she says she owes a lot to her years of skating. “It gave me a whole different perspective on myself. When I got into skating, it gave me more self-esteem and confidence.”

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