Students, faculty and staff across campus came together to say thank you to Dr. David Burks Wednesday, April 27, for his past 18 months of service as interim University president.
Including a highlight video, thank you notes and a celebratory muffin chapel, Burks was honored for his extended time on campus. Senior student assistant to the president Bennett Holloway helped coordinate some aspects of the day.
“[Dr. Burks] so deeply cares about interacting with students, and that goes back to when he was a professor, and he said many times that being a professor in the classroom everyday with students was the most fun and his favorite role that he had serving for Harding,” Holloway said. “He’s made such an effort to be visible and engaged with the students, so I hope this is sort of a small re-experiencing of the engagement that he continually strived for throughout his time as president.”
Burks and his wife Leah have contributed greatly to the success of Harding in previous years and in this last short term presidency. Dr. Andrew Baker, director of the Mitchell Center for Leadership and Ministry, saw the importance of acknowledging their work and giving back to them.
“I think in the future we’ll look back in 20 or 25 years and see that this was a really important window of time,” Baker said. “You have COVID, enrollment questions, what the future of education even looks like; 2022 is a weird time. It doesn’t look like 1986 or 1987 when he first became president, so I think it’s important that we say thank you. I think there is an honor to be paid to Dr. Burks and Miss Leah for their contribution to this place.”
Although many students had never interacted with Burks when he became president, they were able to get to know and love him.
“[Dr. Burks] is just a very friendly, fun person to be around, and he’s very authentic and genuine, and he doesn’t put a mask up, but instead he just is himself and the genuine version of that,” Student Association president Ethan Brazell said. “I think my favorite memories of him this school year have been anytime I’ve gotten to see him interact with the students, just because you could tell at the end of the day that’s what he was here for, and he did it for us.”
The day of thanks was centered around Burks’ favorite word: camaraderie.
“He’s made camaraderie central to who he is as president for a long, long time, so the hope is it’s just a day of camaraderie, from muffins after chapel, big family University picture, to him serving the students ice cream: That’s what this is,” Baker said. “I hope that when he looks back on all that [happened] Wednesday, he looks back with a smile on his face, and that he knows that people were grateful. So if someone six months from now is like, ‘Hey, I heard the students did something for you the last week of chapel,’ he smiles, and says, ‘Yeah, that was a good day.’”