Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bruce McLarty

We at HPS believe that the odds favor Bruce McLarty becoming Harding's next president. He hasn't spent much time in the academic ranks, and he doesn't have a PhD (his terminal degree is a DMin from Ashland Seminary in Ohio), but he has fulfilled the most important requirement for any administrator at Harding: he's a member of the College church.

If anyone can continue the legacy of David Burks, it's Bruce McLarty. He's a good speaker, and will certainly keep HU carefully focused on humoring what it seems to deem its' primary constituency -- the center-right of the Churches of Christ. It would be a throwback pick for Harding, too - 40 years ago when Lipscomb, ACU, and FHU were hiring preachers to be their presidents, HU hired a refined academic to be its president (Ganus). ACU, Lipscomb, and FHU have now turned over their reins to professional academics, while a McLarty pick would be entrusting the university to a preacher.

McLarty's strongest asset is that he has few enemies on campus, and these days at Harding the goal of being bland and non-offensive to everyone (save liberals) seems to be the key strategic goal of the university. But that may be McLarty's weakness. We at HPS believe picking McLarty would be the safest pick, for it would largely continue Burks' legacy (if Burks and McLarty have ever disagreed on a governance issue, we've never noticed), but several in the HU community are wishing for HU's next president to take the university to the next level, whatever that may be. The university's undergraduate enrollment has stagnated, its US News ranking has stagnated, and its endowment has also stagnated. If McLarty can address any of these issues successfully, we wish him well, but we at HPS believe he may suffer from the College Church Myopia that grips so many at the highest levels of the HU administration. That said, we believe the board-packing Burks has successfully completed will ensure McLarty's succession of Burks, even though our enthusiasm for that pick among the likely finalists is tepid at best.

Coming Up: Monte Cox, McLarty's stiffest challenge.


  1. His short tenure as Dean of the College of Bible was a disaster which raises questions about his ability to manage the entire university. He is more effective in his current position as Vice President of Spiritual Life.

  2. Actually, Bruce McLarty received his Ph.D. in April 2010

  3. Forgive me... he received his D.Min, not his Ph.D. My mistake.

  4. Actually, he received his D.Min. from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio. Asbury Seminary is in Kentucky.

  5. Interesting blog! It provides a unique chance to say what can be difficult to say in person. I've been at Harding for a long time and through my time at College Church and various other forums must affirm that McLarty would not work as pres. We all love him. He is a gentle soul and fine speaker. But he is easily stressed and does not handle or manage conflict well and is not gifted in administration as shown by his short disastrous term as Dean. He serves Harding best in his current role as director of spiritual life. He could take over as the face of Harding and chapel leader especially if a woman was installed.