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Mike Williams Named President of Harding University

After a nine-month search, Harding University has found its next president.

Mike Williams, the current president of Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., will move back to Searcy, Ark., to serve as the sixth president of Harding. Before he was named president of Faulkner in 2015, Williams served for 28 years in recruiting and fundraising roles at Harding.

Williams will assume the presidency of Harding on June 1, 2022.

Robert C. Walker, chairman of Harding’s board of trustees, announced Williams’ appointment at a 3 p.m. Wednesday news conference in Searcy.

“Dr. Williams fits the profile as established for our next president perfectly,” Walker said. “He is a mature, spiritually sound and Christ-centered man. He aligns with our mission and understands our culture. He brings vision, strategic thinking and the business acumen of an experienced university president. He received overwhelming support from the board of trustees.”

Williams succeeds Bruce McLarty, who was replaced as Harding’s president on Dec. 1, 2020. David Burks, McLarty’s predecessor, has served as president in an interim role as the university conducted the search for its next chief administrator.

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Williams earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from Harding and a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania. He began serving on Harding’s admissions staff in 1987, was named director of admission services in 1991 and was appointed vice president of advancement in 2003. He served in that role until Faulkner named him president in 2015.

Administrators at Faulkner selected Williams “because he has proved he can reach beyond the reasonable, the tried and true and always achievable,” Bud Stumbaugh, then-chairman of Faulkner’s Board of Trustees, said in 2015. Stumbaugh cited a five-year fundraising campaign Williams led at Harding that had a goal of $105 million.

“The 2008 great recession made this goal look impossible,” Stumbaugh said. “The institution exceeded the goal and raised $129 million. He has shown he can stretch and not stay stuck in the status quo.”

Harding experienced an enrollment decline in 2020, with 5 percent fewer students than the previous year. But the university rebounded this fall. The university recently reported an enrollment of 4,970 students, an increase of 7.6 percent over last year. That includes a new undergraduate enrollment of 866, a nearly 4 percent gain, and a graduate enrollment of 1,282, a gain of nearly 23 percent.

Williams said, “Given the seismic changes in our culture, Harding is poised for this decisive moment. I look forward to collaborating with distinguished Christian scholars, extraordinary students and passionate alumni to envision a bold and robust future.”

Williams is married to Lisa Runyan, a 1989 Harding alumna. The couple has two grown sons, Quen and Cade, and a daughter-in-law, Cailin.

This article was first published at The Christian Chronicle. It is reprinted with permission.

Erik Tryggestad

Erik Tryggestad joined the staff of The Christian Chronicle in 2001 after working as a writer and assistant editor for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia.