“It’s great to be at Harding,” one might see on a button pinned to a visiting high school student’s backpack. Maybe the phrase is plastered on a sticker decorating an old Honors Symposium folder, or perhaps on the back of someone’s Harding bookstore-purchased T-shirt.
It can be easy to catch the enthusiasm people exude about Harding, enthusiasm that usually ramps up to a tangible buzz of excitement from incoming students and nostalgic alumni during Homecoming weekend.
But was it always great to be at Harding?
Ed Higginbotham thinks so. Higginbotham, a distinguished Harding alumnus, graduated in 1960, and said that his time at Harding was the most wonderful experience of his life up to that point.
“With the academic, social, spiritual and cultural aspects, I believe that you will not find a better institution of higher learning anywhere in the world,” Higginbotham said.
Although Higginbotham spent the typical four years at Harding, students can come for half the time and still acquire an enjoyable experience, according to Milton Sewell. Sewell, also a distinguished alumnus, transferred to Harding from Freed-Hardeman University in 1962 and graduated in 1964, and said his two years in Searcy were well spent.
“Many friends, excellent teachers and challenging classes all made for two very good years,” Sewell said. “I fondly remember chapel, taking buddies to my home in Alabama and telling great stories with friends.”
Sheila Sullivan, another distinguished alumna who graduated in 1982, spent only three semesters at Harding, but said more would have been welcome.
“I only wish I could have been there longer,” Sullivan said. “Only in reflection can I truly appreciate the lengths to which the faculty went to accommodate my unique curricular needs.”
Sewell said he remembers many social activities that remain prevalent at Harding today, including getting to know a lot of people and attending different devotionals around campus. However, there are several rules that did not transfer over to the 21st century.
In the 1960s, men were allowed to smoke in their dorm rooms, while women were not allowed to smoke at all, according to Higginbotham. Men had no curfew while women had a 10 p.m. curfew, and students were only allowed two excused chapel skips.
The cafeteria was located in the basement of Pattie Cobb dorm and only served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Sundays. According to Higginbotham, there were two lines in the cafeteria: the “saints” and the “sinners.” The “saints” line was designated as such because the microphone was located at the end of that line, and men who were in that line had to be willing to periodically lead the cafeteria in prayer for the meals.
Advances in technology also separate the generations at Harding, according to Sullivan.
“Some of my fondest memories are of being tucked away in the Brackett library with that unique aroma of aging textbooks,” Sullivan said. “It smelled like wisdom to me, and it still does.”
Despite the differences between the past and present, the underlying themes of academic excellence and increased faith remain unchanged, according to Sewell.
“My faith became stronger after listening to Dr. Benson in Sunday morning Bible classes at College Church,” Sewell said. “Harding helped me get over homesickness and pursue excellence in everything I did.”