Harding constituents received an email survey from the presidential search committee Tuesday, Feb. 23, requesting their input for future presidential candidates.
Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Robert Walker announced the formation of this presidential search committee via a campus-wide email Feb. 10. The committee includes seven board members, three Harding faculty and three Harding alumni.
Also in this email, Walker announced the appointment of an executive search firm, CarterBaldwin, to aid the search process for a new president, making this the first time the University has hired an outside executive search firm for this process.
“Dr. Walker was looking for people … from a variety of backgrounds — people who loved Harding, cared about the mission and could bring different perspectives to the table,” alumnus Charles Ganus, board member and chairman of the presidential search committee, said. “So that was all involved when you look at the list of people.”
Ganus said a wide range of ages are represented in the committee, including an alumnus who graduated in 2017, and the members come from a wide range of talents, experiences and backgrounds.
The Feb. 23 survey contained four questions and must be completed by March 9 for consideration. The survey included questions regarding what characteristics and qualities students, faculty, staff and alumni deem as most important for a president and what challenges the president should be prepared to face and address.
“At the beginning of this process, we wanted to receive input from the Harding family, and this [survey] was a way to do so,” Ganus said.
Senior Morgan Proffitt, Student Association president, said University President David Burks recommended a group of students to meet with a CarterBaldwin representative to discuss students’ perspectives and desires.
“Some of the things we talked about in general that we wanted was … a president who really cares intimately about the students and who seeks connection and ways to get to know them … and isn’t just some weird figurehead who doesn’t get to know them,” Proffitt said.
Proffitt also said the future president should be someone who has a strong vision for the University’s future and is able to make decisions that will lead Harding toward that future.
“I think as [a] representative of the students … I would say that the vision of Harding right now is a lot of times about maintaining the tradition we have come from in various forms and ways,” Proffitt said. “And while I agree that tradition is important for understanding the story we come from, I believe that a president who seeks to add and grow from that would be a really beneficial choice.”
Senior Namon Pope, Black Student Association president, also said he hopes the next president will continue to stretch Harding and have a strong vision for the future.
“I’d definitely be looking for a president who represents where Harding wants to go and where Harding needs to go,” Pope said. “In my eyes … Harding has been working to make a place for their Black students [and] make a place for their students in general who are non-White, and so somebody who does have the concerns of those students on their heart and in their mind — whether that means a Black president … or if it means just someone who is very conscious of the experiences of minorities on campus.”
Pope said he hopes the future president can help lovingly and gently recognize mistakes Harding has made in the past and address more sensitive subjects to continue leading the school in a better direction — “someone who is in with the students and is not afraid to gently and lovingly talk about issues that are touchy.”
“Talk about race, talk about different sexual orientations, talk about whatever — because Christ didn’t hide,” Pope said.
Ganus said the board and search committee try to incorporate prayer into every step of the process, and he hopes the Harding community will join them in doing so.
“The board wants the Harding family to join the board and the search committee in prayer for God’s guidance to the right person,” Ganus said. “That’s part of all our discussions and meetings — that prayerful process.”
Ganus said the search committee will work with CarterBaldwin in finding a president and narrowing down the process, and the entire board of trustees will ultimately make the final decision when the time comes. Additionally, Ganus said they will continue to update the Harding community as they gather survey results and updated information.