Written by Emma Jones // Photo by Macy Cox
University President Mike Williams and Executive Vice President Jean-Noel Thompson have already become known as a dynamic duo at Harding, but the story of their friendship begins around seven years ago.
“I became president of Faulkner in 2015, and Dr. T was on the administration team there,” Williams said. “I had numerous people who knew Dr. T that told me, ‘Oh you’re gonna love this guy,’ so I went in anticipating being a kindred spirit.”
Thompson said he felt a similar sense of friendship from the beginning of his relationship withWilliams when Williams asked for a list of incoming students so he could pray over them.
“I thought, ‘That’s the guy I want to work with,’” Thompson said. “Early on I knew that it was going to be a special relationship.”
Over the years, Williams and Thompson said they have come to recognize strengths in each other that help to balance out their own weaknesses. Williams said he considers himself good at seeing the big picture and asking people’s opinions, but Thompson goes the second step by reaching back out and giving feedback. Thompson said one area of weakness for him that he recognizes as a strength in Williams is his ability to remember names and details about people.
“I think for the two of them by now, they balance each other out,” Lisa Williams,
Dr. Williams’ wife, said. “What one is stronger in, the other may not be. It’s just an easy fit for the two of them.”
Thompson said he was not expecting to be asked to accompany Williams to work at Harding, but after thinking and praying through the offer, he decided he wanted to be a part of Williams’ plan for Harding.
“Dr. Williams presented the opportunity, and it really wasn’t a job he offered me, he offered me a vision and a future for Harding,” Thompson said. “I’m honored to be here.”
Though Williams and Thompson’s friendship has mainly been a professional one, Lisa Williams said that since their move to Searcy their families have begun spending more time together, and that she is “looking forward to developing more of a friendship for [their] families as well.”
As for their future plans for the University, Williams and Thompson gave no specifics but both expressed excitement for what Harding already has to offer.
“I don’t want to limit God on what he can do when you get a group like the people we have here,” Williams said. “God has blessed this institution with unbelievable talent.”
Thompson echoed his sentiment and said they did not bring anything new with them to Harding, but are focused on utilizing what is already here.
“It’s not some new thing that we’re integrating to the Harding experience,” Thompson said. “We’re teasing out the talent and giftedness and motivation, and trying to draw out the best in all of us.”