Written by Hayley Kate Webb | Photo by Jeff Montgomery
Former Harding University student-athlete and coach Molly Howard-Gerwig died on Oct. 16, following a short battle with colon cancer. Howard-Gerwig was 27.
In May 2021, one week before her wedding, Howard-Gerwig was diagnosed with a rare case of stage IV neuroendocrine colon cancer. Immediately following the diagnosis, Howard-Gerwig and her newlywed husband canceled their honeymoon and began scheduling chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Howard-Gerwig died six months later at the home of her parents.
Howard-Gerwig was a graduate of Harding University, where she was a member of the Lady Bison volleyball team for four years. Following her collegiate playing career for the Lady Bisons, Howard-Gerwig served two years as a graduate assistant coach for the team. Howard-Gerwig was known as “Howie” by her teammates, coaches and players. Senior volleyball players Amber Robin and Cooper Monn played under Howard-Gerwig during their freshman year.
“Howie was an amazing coach to have in my freshman year,” Robin said. “She helped me get out of my comfort zone and always supported me. She was not only a great coach, but an amazing friend to everyone on the team, and she was so loved by her Harding family.”
Howard-Gerwig’s funeral was held on Oct. 18 at the Ridgewood Baptist Church in Forrest City, Arkansas. Many past and current Lady Bison volleyball players were in attendance. Following the funeral service, Monn reminisced on her favorite qualities about Howard-Gerwig. Monn described Howard-Gerwig as fun, exciting, determined, caring and always present.
“From yesterday, I was reminded of how great a leader, role model and friend she was,” Monn said. “She made deep and intentional relationships. All of this points to the fact that Howie was just an amazing Christian. I know she is up there singing and dancing with God right now.”
Howard-Gerwig’s legacy continues to spread throughout the Harding University volleyball team. Even those who never played with or for her understand the impact she had on the program. Junior volleyball player Kinley Schnell said Howard-Gerwig will forever be honored within the Harding volleyball community for the years she played, as well as the years she coached.
“Coach has said before that we should all have a heart like Howie,” Schnell said. “We would not be where we are without the endless support and dedication she brought into the program.”
Harding head volleyball coach Meredith Fear said Howard-Gerwig was the glue that kept their team together for six years. Fear said Howard-Gerwig was the hands and feet of Jesus to her teammates and that she loved God with everything and loved others always.
“We are starting something on the team called the Heart of Howie award,” Fear said. “It will be given to one of our players that strives to be dedicated, loyal, genuine, passionate, infectious, hilarious, caring, reliable, courageous, humble and good. The goodness in Howie was undeniable, and it was undoubtedly from a life lived walking with Christ. I will miss her every day, and I am so thankful God brought her to this program and into our lives.”
In addition, a new scholarship fund has been established here at Harding to honor the life of Howard-Gerwig. In lieu of flowers, her parents have requested that donations be made to the newly instituted Molly Howard-Gerwig Memorial Scholarship Fund.