Written by Everett Kirkman
Alumnus Charles Ganus, board member and chairman of the presidential search committee, said while the process is ongoing, the presidential search committee’s role is now over. He said he and other board members were grateful for the time and effort every committee member put into narrowing the search for the University’s next president.
On Oct. 30, 2020, the retirement of Dr. Bruce McLarty as University president was announced to the Harding community via an email from Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Robert Walker on behalf of the entire board. On Feb. 10, Walker announced the formation of a presidential search committee in a campus-wide email. The committee included seven board members, three Harding faculty members and three Harding alumni. Upon the announcement of the search committee, Walker also announced the appointment of an executive search firm, CarterBaldwin, to aid the search for a new University president. This marked the first time an outside executive search firm was hired by the University for this process.
“We are conducting a nationwide search for a president that will lead Harding University in its vision as a Christ-centered institution of higher education,” Walker said in February. “We are searching for a mature member of the church of Christ who is led by the word of God and the Holy Spirit, committed to the spread of the gospel of Christ and focused on strengthening the University in its pursuit of excellence in higher education.”
Two weeks after this announcement, Harding constituents received an email from the presidential search committee, requesting input for future presidential candidates. The survey included questions regarding characteristics and qualities students, alumni, faculty and staff considered most important for a president and what challenges the president should be prepared to address.
In the meantime, Ganus said he felt blessed by Dr. David Burks’ interim presidency.
“There’s a number of good things happening here at Harding right now,” Ganus said. “I’m looking forward to the new president continuing the mission of Harding — continuing for it to be the special place it has been. I look forward to the next president building on that.”
Other colleges also affiliated with the Churches of Christ have recently gone through presidential transitions.
On Aug. 5, Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, announced the appointment of the university’s 18th president — Dr. Candice McQueen, former Tennessee commissioner of education and former dean of the university’s department of education. McQueen was the first female president hired in the Church of Christ school’s 130-year history.
“I am confident that her vision, deep expertise, passion for faith-based education and love for Lipscomb will lead us boldly into a new season of greatness, exemplified by excellence, diversity and immersion in our community as together we work to transform the lives of our students,” David Solomon, chair of the Lipscomb Board of Trustees, said in a statement at the time of the announcement.
York College, a school also affiliated with the Churches of Christ, announced the appointment of a new president on June 12, 2020. Dr. Samuel A. Smith, an alumnus of the college, has served as president since July 6, 2020, after spending nearly 20 years in a variety of roles at Lipscomb. Smith’s inauguration will take place today.
“Smith has proven himself to be a thoughtful listener with a visionary spirit,” Dr. R. Wayne White, chairman of the York College Board of Trustees, said. “After interviewing several great candidates, it was apparent that Smith’s experiences in higher education were the best match for the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
Candidates for the role of Harding president will interview with the University board of trustees, who will then vote on finalists. The board has not publicly announced a date on which they expect to announce a decision regarding the new hiring.