The Honors College is an uninterrupted success story that tells a story of exponential academic enrichment. The program (as it was then called) was initiated by Dr. Larry Long in 1989. He felt that Harding University's most scholarly students would benefit from a special program that allowed them to approach their studies in creative, advanced ways.
The program began with 19 students who have since achieved excellence in their fields. By 1998, the program expanded to more than 500 students and received “college” status. The Honors College has since become a major social and intellectual force on campus. It now has more than 1100 members.
Distinguished professor Jeffrey Hopper replaced Larry Long as the dean of the Honors College in 2001 and was joined by Mrs. Debbie Baird as the new administrator at the same time. Mrs. Baird serves as a special academic advisor to honors students and coordinates honors contracts.
In 2011, Dr. J. Warren Casey became the Dean of the Honors College.
In 2015 Dr. Mike James was appointed Dean of the Honors College and served in that capacity for five years.
The Current Dean is Dr. Kevin Kehl. He was appointed in June of 2020 by President Bruce McLarty.
Current honors students come from most majors and many different countries. They frequently move on to successful careers, and often place at the most prestigious graduate schools, including Ivy League and other first-tier graduate programs. Like the first honors class, they benefit from a quality program that stresses academic excellence, independence, thoughtfulness, service, fun and friendship.
Finally, the honors student officers, too, have established a tradition of service that greatly contributes to the college. Owing to their initiative, the Honors College has established a legacy of working with the Searcy Children's Home, Habitat for Humanity, and the Searcy Sunshine School for the differently able. Habitat for Humanity in White County was actually established by the Honors College.
The history of the Harding University Honors College is the story of people making the most from their undergraduate experience, working to learn about life and to live as God would have them. It is the story of talent, dedication, excitement, discipline and growth. It is the story of Christian education at its best.