First Ladies Garden donors were honored today, Oct. 24, at a dedication ceremony in the Administration Auditorium.
Chancellor Emeritus Clifton L. Ganus opened the ceremony with a prayer, followed by a few words from President Bruce McLarty. Families of the women honored in the garden were then recognized by Chancellor David Burks.
Burks expressed his appreciation for Liz Howell, Vice President of Alumni and Parent Relations, and all of her hard work that made their dream a reality.
“We started in this together, and she just took it and ran,” Burks said.
Burks said one of the primary reasons behind the garden was to develop greater appreciation for women with roles in Harding’s legacy.
“We haven’t done as good a job of recognizing the women who have made a difference at Harding,” Burks said. “I think this garden is moving in that direction. I think these ladies deserve recognition.”
Burks said since most of the first ladies were master gardeners, it seemed fitting that they would be honored in this way. Each first lady has her own section of the garden, with plants that reflect aspects of her personality.
“It’s the stories that are all the way through this garden that are so important,” Burks said.
Ganus said he appreciated the idea of a garden because his wife is passionate about gardening and was an original member of the Searcy Gardening Club.
“I think it is a wonderful idea honoring the ladies,” Ganus said. “My wife loves flowers and has an iris named after her.”
Former First Fady Louise Ganus said she was overwhelmed with appreciation and had trouble wrapping her mind around such an honor. Matt Bell, who is honoring his mother Patricia Schang with a plaque in the garden, said seeing the garden in person for the first time was an incredible experience.
“I was overwhelmed and very happy with it, and very impressed with the turn out,” Bell said.
Although the main portion of the garden is complete, construction on phase two will begin next semester. New features will include a courtyard with chess and checkers tables, a secret garden and an outdoor classroom.
Visitors to the garden can further explore the history behind the plaques using an app called BeaconSage. Guests can listen to recordings about each first lady and many of the other notable women. Burks said this feature will eventually be available all across campus on a Harding app.