SEARCY — Last year, Harding President Bruce McLarty told members of the incoming freshman class they would get to be freshmen together. It was McLarty’s first year at the helm of the school, and on June 1 of this year, he started his “sophomore” year as president.
“Probably the biggest single change that I hope for is a little bit of a slowing in pace and a little more time on campus,” he said. “Last year we were out in so many cities connecting with alumni. Everybody wants to see and meet the new president, so we did an awful lot of traveling.”
Like in many other jobs, McLarty said, it takes about a year to get used to all the nuances of acting as university president, but he anticipates that his second year on the job will be a smooth year with that experience under his belt.
“I’m excited about going into a year where I’ve seen everything before,” he said, “at least the big pieces, the regular events.”
Harding University’s fall semester will start Monday Aug. 18, and McLarty said the faculty and staff are anticipating a solid beginning. Enrollment is up, and housing is at 100 percent occupancy, and the school is exploring options to increase its housing on campus.
“Enrollment is very strong. We had to stop accepting new students in the middle of July, and our freshman class is up by 65 students, or a 4.8 percent increase over last year,” McLarty said. “Because of that, housing has been our greatest challenge this summer. … Just making sure we have a place for everyone has been a challenge.”
The school’s board of trustees has greenlighted Phase III of Legacy Park, which is the university’s apartment complex built in an urban town concept on the west side of campus. Phase III will be a $5 million project to build six new units on Jimmy Carr Drive. This will give the university about 96 new beds.
Additionally, Armstrong Hall — the oldest residence hall for men on campus — received a major renovation this summer.
Residence halls are not the only buildings to get face-lifts this year. The school just completed the construction of a $3.8 million addition to the Pryor-England Science building that gives students and faculty new labs, a new lecture hall and new offices.
“This is one of those connections across campus,” McLarty said. “The medical areas of campus have really started impacting our undergraduate science program. A lot of students come here as freshmen knowing they want to go into physical therapy or pharmacy or any of those programs, so we’ve had the need for new lab space. That’s just really happy news around here, especially if you are a science teacher.”
Work was also done this summer on the Reynolds Building on the south side of campus, and the yearbook and student newspaper offices will move there this semester. Aramark, the dining services for the campus, is making $700,000 in improvements to the Charles White Dining Hall.
This fall, Harding will have 29 new faculty members. The university has received several accreditations, including Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education accreditation for the physical therapy program; continued Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology accreditation for the computer, electrical and mechanical engineering programs; and continued Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education accreditation for the pharmacy program. A universitywide Higher Learning Commission accreditation visit is scheduled for February at the school.
McLarty said there will be a lot to look for on the Bison sports front this year, including the unveiling of a new video scoreboard, which will provide instant-replay capabilities.
“This is a $250,000 project, and the money was raised from the 1959 football team,” McLarty said. “When we reintroduced football at Harding, this was the first group.”
The scoreboard will be unveiled at the Oct. 18 football game against Ouachita Baptist University. On the day of the unveiling, the 1959 football team will have their 55-year reunion.
“The thing I’m most excited about is the back of the scoreboard,” McLarty said. “In place of the ugly back of the scoreboard, there’s going to be this wonderful picture of the 1959 football team with the wording, ‘The legacy of Bison Football began here in 1959, thanks to Coach Carl Allison, Dr. Clifton L. Ganus Jr. and the entire 1959 football team.’ To me, that’s just going to be one of the happiest things when you walk in the stadium and you connect with that kind of heritage and legacy, and to know it’s that team and their families who raised the money for this.”
McLarty also announced the speakers for the American Studies Distinguished Lecture Series for the 2014-15 school year, including Col. Lee Ellis on Sept. 18, Eric Greitens on Nov. 13 and Archie Manning on Feb. 19.
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.