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.