Harding University

Last updated
Harding University
HardingUniversity logo.svg
MottoCommunity of Mission
Type Private university
Established1924;96 years ago (1924)
Religious affiliation
Churches of Christ
Endowment $169 million (2020) [1]
President Bruce D. McLarty
Provost Marty Spears
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States

35°14′52″N91°43′38″W / 35.24785°N 91.72711°W / 35.24785; -91.72711 Coordinates: 35°14′52″N91°43′38″W / 35.24785°N 91.72711°W / 35.24785; -91.72711
Campus Suburban, 350 acres (140 ha)
Colors Black and Gold
Nickname Bisons
Sporting affiliations
Website www.harding.edu

Harding University is a private Christian university with its main campus in Searcy, Arkansas. It is the largest private university in Arkansas. Established in 1924, the university offers undergraduate, graduate, and pre-professional programs. The university also comprises Harding School of Theology, located in Memphis, Tennessee, which was formerly known as Harding Graduate School of Religion. [2] Harding is one of several institutions of higher learning associated with the Churches of Christ.




WhiteCo AR courthouse WhiteCo AR courthouse.jpg
WhiteCo AR courthouse

Harding College was founded in Morrilton, Arkansas, in April 1924 after the merging of two separate colleges: Arkansas Christian College of Morrilton, Arkansas, and Harper College of Harper, Kansas. [3] It was named after James A. Harding, a minister and educator associated with Churches of Christ. [4] Harding College moved to the campus of the defunct Galloway Female College in Searcy, Arkansas, ten years later.

James A. Harding James a harding.jpg
James A. Harding

Cold War

Harding University first advocated for pacifism and political disengagement, in line with its own founding influences like James A. Harding and David Lipscomb as well as with wider trends in many other evangelical Christian movements during late 19th- and early 20th-century America. This trajectory shifted during the Cold War, however. Harding became involved in the production of a series of animated cartoons extolling the virtues of free-market capitalism. This series, including "Make Mine Freedom" (1948) as well as "Meet King Joe" (1949), were all produced by John Southerland Productions as part of a concerted campaign to fight against the threats of communism at the beginning of the Cold War using popular media. The animations contrast mainstream American values with the values of Soviet communism. [5] The initiative represented a central concern of Harding president George S. Benson, who believed that fighting socialism was a moral imperative.


Dr George S Benson Dr George S Benson other view.jpg
Dr George S Benson

During segregation in the United States, the school remained racially segregated under the leadership of president George S. Benson, a staunch segregationist. In spite of the overwhelming disagreement of the school's students and faculty, Benson maintained that blacks were under "the curse of Ham" and that mixing of the races was against the divine order. In 1963, when the Civil Rights Act would threaten a cutoff of federal funding, Benson acquiesced and a few black students were admitted. [6] By 1969 it had only 20 black students out of a student body of over 2000. While President Ganus stated that he did not "see any Biblical injunction against it", he discouraged interracial relationships. Under his leadership, the Harding administration allowed students to enter into interracial relationships, but made it policy to caution them against it and informed their parents in writing. The policy of allowing such relationships was the focus of much anger from the families of some white students. In 1969, three black students who protested racism at the university were expelled. [7] [8] In 1969, Ganus attempted to placate students by promising to hire Negro teachers, although the first black teacher was not hired until 1980. [9] [10] In 2020, president McClarty made a similar promise to consider naming something on campus after black alumni. [11]

In 1953, Norman Adamson became the first black person accepted to Harding. However, when administrators learned he was black he was denied admission. [12] In 1980, Richard King became the first African-American Faculty Member. [10]

In 2020, a former graduate organized a petition drive to rename the Benson auditorium because of Benson's racist views. Upon review, and against the wishes of the Black Student Association, the university defended Benson and chose to retain the name. [13] At the same time, President McClarty recognized the University had no buildings or landmarks on campus that recognized Black Alumni and promised some sort of memorial to Botham Jean within a year. [13] [11]



The Original Harding College Arch. Arch at entry of Harding College.png
The Original Harding College Arch.

The Searcy campus comprises 48 buildings located on 350 acres (140 ha) near the center of Searcy. [14] The campus lies roughly between Race Avenue and Beebe-Capps Expressway and includes several other minor thoroughfares, the campus of Harding Academy, Harding Place (a retirement community), and portions of surrounding neighborhoods.

The heart of the campus includes the George S. Benson Auditorium, which sits facing the McInteer Bible and World Missions Center. Brackett Library, the American Studies Building (Education and English departments), the David B. Burks American Heritage Building (hotel and offices), Pattie Cobb Hall, and the Administration Building frame a grassy central commons area upon which can be found several paths, a fountain, and a bell tower made out of bricks from the institution that once stood there: Galloway Female College. Notable additions in recent years have included several dormitories; expansions of the cafeteria, student center, art department; and the David B. Burks American Heritage Building, as well as the addition of the McInteer Bible and World Missions Center, which came with the closing of the road that once ran through that part of campus. It is now a pedestrian mall.

After competing in the Ganus Athletic Center from 1976 until 2006, Harding's volleyball and basketball teams moved back to the Rhodes-Reaves Field House. The field house is a round-topped airplane hangar built for France in WWII, and purchased as war surplus by George S. Benson. It was reconstructed on campus in 1947. In 2007 it was retrofitted to accentuate the already deafening acoustics of the facility, working to the advantage of the home teams and earning Harding the title of "Best Road Trip Destination in College Basketball." [15] The campus also has extensive intramural sports facilities.

In 2013, Harding renovated part of Unity Health South into an area for Harding's Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.

In 2017, Harding remodeled space in the McInteer Center which houses the Linda Byrd Smith Museum of Biblical Archaeology. [16] According to Harding University, "This museum features artifacts related to the period of the patriarchs, crucifixion and chronologies related to the ancient world." It includes an LCD touch-screen panel with three or four educational videos. Objects in exhibit will be rotated annually.

The university maintains satellite campuses in Arkansas, one in North Little Rock and a second in Rogers. [17]

The university maintains permanent campuses in Florence, Italy and Athens, Greece. Semester programs are provided in Brisbane, Australia, London, England, Chile, France, and Zambia. [18]



Structurally, the university comprises nine separate colleges: the College of Allied Health, the College of Arts & Humanities, the College of Bible & Ministry, the Paul R. Carter College of Business Administration, the Cannon-Clary College of Education, the Carr College of Nursing, the College of Pharmacy, the College of Sciences, and the Honors College. Each college then has its own subdivisions of departments or other sections. [19] The university also has a School of Theology in Memphis. Between these nine colleges, the university provides ninety-seven majors, ten undergraduate degrees, fourteen pre-professional programs, and twenty-one graduate and professional degrees. [20]

The Administration Building of Harding University. Administration.jpg
The Administration Building of Harding University.

American Studies Institute

Harding houses the American Studies Institute (ASI), a center designed to supplement students' academic training and promote "a complete understanding of the institutions, values, and ideas of liberty and democracy." [21] In doing so, the ASI exhibits a generally conservative political stance, focused on going "back to the fundamental values that made this country great." The formal roots of this program date back to 1953, when Harding formed the School of American Studies. [22] Currently, the ASI sponsors a number of programs aimed at promoting these values. These include entrepreneurial and leadership programs, a distinguished student honors program, the Belden Center for Private Enterprise Education, and participation in the Walton Scholars Program, which brings in qualified students from Hispanic countries to Arkansas colleges and universities.


Harding University's primary campus houses the Brackett Library, which includes the Ann Cowan Dixon Archives & Special Collections. The library holds more than 340,000 print volumes and nearly 300,000 electronic resources. [23] It also houses the English Department Writing Center and the Media Center. Its School of Theology, in Memphis, maintains a well-respected theological library, the L. M. Graves Memorial Library.


Harding University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Specific colleges and programs have received further accreditation by specialized agencies as well. [24]


In 2019, Harding University ranked #240 overall in the "national universities" category by U.S. News & World Report . [25]

Student life

Social clubs

The David B. Burks American Heritage Building on the Harding University campus. HeritageCenter.jpg
The David B. Burks American Heritage Building on the Harding University campus.

The university sponsors student-led "social clubs" that serve a similar social networking function to the Greek system, as Harding forbids formation of local chapters of national social fraternities and sororities. Most of these organizations have adopted Greek letter names that are similar to national fraternity and sorority names. Currently there are 15 women's social clubs and 15 men's social clubs at Harding. Social clubs are open to all academically eligible students and serve as some of the university's most visible student-led organizations. The clubs are a prominent part of student life with slightly more than half of all undergraduate students participating as social club members.

The social club induction process begins when clubs host "receptions" in the fall to recruit new members. Prospective members then complete a "visitation", which requires that they meet and interview every current member of the club. The membership process culminates in Club Week, when each prospective member bonds with the other members of the club through a series of scheduled activities throughout the week.

Once a student is accepted into the club, they attend biweekly meetings and can participate in club-sponsored sports, service projects, and Spring Sing.

List of clubs

  • Alpha Tau Epsilon (men)
  • Beta Omega Chi (men)
  • Chi Sigma Alpha (men)
  • Chi Kappa Rho (women)
  • Chi Omega Pi (women)
  • Delta Chi Delta (men)
  • Delta Gamma Rho (women)
  • Delta Nu (women)
  • Gamma Sigma Phi (men)
  • GATA (women)
  • Iota Chi (women)
  • Ju Go Ju (women)
  • King's Men (men)
  • Knights (men)
  • Ko Jo Kai (women)
  • Kyodai (men)
  • Lambda Chi Theta (men)
  • Omega Phi (men)
  • Phi Kappa Delta (women)
  • Pi Theta Phi (women)
  • Regina (women)
  • ROME (men)
  • Shantih (women)
  • Sigma Nu Epsilon (men)
  • Sigma Phi Mu (women)
  • Sub T-16 (men)
  • Titans (men)
  • Theta (men)
  • TNT (men)
  • Zeta Pi Zeta (women)
  • Zeta Rho (women)

Hazing controversy

Harding's social clubs have been involved in hazing controversies over the years. As a result, some have been forced to disband, including the Seminoles (2010), Kappa Sigma Kappa (2005), [26] Mohicans (1982), [27] [28] and most recently Pi Kappa Epsilon (2015). [29]


Harding has competed in the NCAA at the Division II level since 1997, beginning in the Lone Star Conference moving in 2000 to the Gulf South Conference and then moving to the newly formed Great American Conference (GAC) in 2011. Men's sports include Soccer, Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Tennis, and Track and Field. Women's sports include Basketball, Cheerleading, Cross Country, Golf, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Track and Field, and Volleyball.

The facilities for the sporting events are: First Security Stadium, Ganus Activities Complex, [30] Stevens Soccer Complex, [31] Jerry Moore Field (baseball), [32] Berry Family Grandstand (softball), [33] Harding Tennis Complex, [34] and the Rhodes-Reaves Field House. [35] On October 19, 2019, the new indoor football facility was dedicated in honor of longtime football head coach Ronnie Huckeba. The Huckeba Field House is the largest indoor practice facility in NCAA Division II and one of the largest in the country for any level. [36]

Religious life and policies

In keeping with the university's expectation of the "highest standards of morality, integrity, orderliness, and personal honor," Harding has a number of rules that were designed to foster these standards on campus. [37]

Each weekday morning, students are required to attend chapel service. Chapel presentations are usually led by students or faculty, but special events and guest speakers take place on a regular basis. Classes on biblical studies are also mandatory for students taking at least 8 hours for credit in a given semester. Additionally, students must complete at least 8 hours of Bible courses in order to complete the Liberal Arts curriculum.

Most students are required to live on campus, and those who do are required to be in their residence halls by midnight (00:00) during the week and 1 a.m. (01:00) on weekends; except in certain open house events, men and women are not allowed to visit one another's dorm rooms. In addition, Harding prohibits premarital, extramarital, and homosexual sex. [38]

The consumption of alcohol is also prohibited for students and faculty both on and off campus. A violation of this policy usually results in expulsion for one semester. (Searcy, Arkansas, lies in White County, which is also a dry county.) Harding has had a no smoking policy on campus since August 1978. More broadly, disciplinary action may be taken against students who use illegal drugs whether on or off campus.

Harding requires faculty to dress professionally when attending class, chapel, lyceum, and American Studies programs. Prior to August 1979, female students were required to wear dresses to class and are still required to dress "modestly." In recent years, there has been a controversy regarding the wearing of yoga pants on campus.

Spring Sing

Spring Sing is an annual musical production held during Easter Weekend, featuring performances by the social clubs. It is widely attended by current and prospective students, alumni, and Searcy residents. An estimated 12,000 people attend the show each year. [39] Each year, an overall theme is selected, and each club develops music and choreographed routines for the show. Rehearsals begin as early as January. Spring Sing also typically features two hosts, two hostesses, and a general song and choreography ensemble, with these roles chosen by audition. The ensemble performs to music played by the University Jazz Band. Each club act is judged and, according to their performance, awarded a certain sum of money. The clubs then donate this money to charities of their choice.

Student publications

Alongside publications of the University itself, such as the alumni newsletter Harding Magazine and the yearbook The Petit Jean, students produce their own periodical during the academic year, called The Bison. This student-run publication is printed in nine issues per semester and made available through its multimedia website The Link.

In 2011 and 2018, LGBT students at Harding produced an unauthorised magazine called HUQueer Press, whose website was blocked by the University. [40] This decision by the administration – which aligned with those of similar universities – gained attention from national newspapers like The New York Times and online platforms like Jezebel. [41] [42]

Notable alumni

Notable faculty

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