Former Harding president passes torch to McLarty

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published June 9, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated June 7, 2013 at 9:53 a.m.
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Former Harding University President David Burks, left, hands an office key to Bruce McLarty, signifying the transfer of the presidency at Harding to McLarty. Burks will now serve as chancellor at the school.

— On June 1, David B. Burks stepped down from his role as president of Harding University. Bruce McLarty took over the position in a Transferring of the Key ceremony May 31. With the new title of chancellor officially tied to his name, Burks took a few minutes to talk about his experiences with the university and what his goals are in his new position.

What words of advice have you passed on to Bruce McLarty?

My words of advice to Dr. McLarty are simply to hold on to and enhance the wonderful and unique mission of Harding University. It is very special to our identity, and I feel strongly that our mission of integrating faith, learning and living is at the heart of who we are. I know that he understands this mission and will do everything possible to not only maintain it but enhance it and take it to higher levels in the future.

Do you remember your first days on the job as president? What were they like for you?

I barely remember my first days on the job 26 years ago. There was so much that I was not aware of at that time, but I was very excited about the new position the board had asked me to accept, and I was very anxious to get into my work as president. I had the wonderful opportunity to follow Clifton Ganus, who would then serve as our chancellor for all 26 years when I was president. He had done a marvelous job for the preceding 22 years as president, and it was wonderful to have him still at Harding serving as our chancellor.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your time as president at Harding?

The highlight of my 26 years at Harding had to do with working with our wonderful students, as well as our faculty and staff. The students stand out over the 26 years as being people with a sense that they were a part of a great calling in life, and it was my extreme privilege to work with them in chapel, in athletics and in many other activities. While I loved the building program, which was necessitated because of our enrollment growth, the greatest joys of my time as Harding’s president had to do with getting to know various students and being a part of their lives.

What was the toughest day on the job?

The toughest day for me had to do with when I was called on to talk to a parent after a student had been involved in a difficult accident or perhaps had died because of an accident. Those are tough times. Thankfully, this only occurred a few times during my 26 years.

What are your new duties as chancellor?

My duties as chancellor are advisory in nature. I will help raise money for the university as I have in the past. I will speak on behalf of the university when asked to do so. I will also work with special projects when asked by the new president or the board of trustees.

What is still on your bucket list for your personal life and at Harding?

With respect to my personal life, I have been blessed in terms of my family, and I have been blessed to be able to travel extensively as part of our global outreach at Harding. However, we still have places we would like to visit. Hopefully, we will be able to do more of that in the years to come.

With respect to things to be accomplished at Harding, I have many dreams in terms of our continuing to expand, in terms of our influence not only in undergraduate but graduate and professional education. I look forward to seeing what Harding will continue to do in the years to come.

How has Harding changed from when you first started as president?

Harding has changed a great deal over the past 26 years because our enrollment has grown from under 3,000 to almost 7,000 in number. This has necessitated many changes in terms of new buildings and new academic program offerings. We have added many graduate programs and some doctoral graduate programs. In that sense, Harding has changed a great deal. However, in a different sense and in a very important way, Harding has not changed at all. We still have a very definite spiritual mission that guides our operation. The purpose of integrating faith, learning and living remains essentially the same as it was 26 years ago. To be certain, the way in which instruction is done today is different because of technology and learning approaches. The curriculum is different. Much of what we do is different than what it was 20 and 30 years ago. However, the focus on God and on his Son Jesus Christ remains strong today, just as it was when I began as president.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or

Associate Features Editor Emily Van Zandt can be reached at .

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