By Kristina Webb
On June 30, the Palm Beach Atlantic University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to appoint former Arkansas state senator Lu Hardin to the post of president following the retirement of Dr. David W. Clark last fall.
“His visionary leadership style is perfect for PBA at this time because it will allow him to continue the legacy that has been established by Donald Warren, Jess Moody, Paul Corts and now most recently by David Clark,” said R. Marshall Jones, Board of Trustees member and chair of the Presidential Search Committe “He’s going to be able to capture the imagination of the faculty, the students, the trustees and the potential donors of what it means to be a premier Christian university.”
Hardin emphasizes the purpose of PBA and said it’s important not to lose sight of that goal.
“I’m excited about being a part of helping students not only have a better life professionally, but to have a Christ-centered life,” Hardin said. “We must never get past that mission.”
Only the Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Committee knew of the move prior to the announcement made in a special chapel service on July 1.
“He seems to be a great motivator,” said Campus Pastor Bernie Cueto. “He seems like he could be the guy to take us to the level that everybody’s been talking about.”
Dr. David Horkott, assistant professor of philosophy and presidential search committee member, said that the choice was made very carefully, after considering several candidates.
“As we searched through candidates I thought that he would be really a positive impact on the university,” Horkott said. “I felt he had a very nice human touch. It’s like a breath of fresh air; he’s got vision and he’s got ambition.”
Hardin, 57, began his career as a trial lawyer. He followed this by working as a business professor for 12 years, after which he moved into politics.
For 14 years, Hardin served as an Arkansas state senator, spending much of his time working on the State Senate Education Committee. He was the director of the Department of Higher Education in Arkansas from 1997 to 2002.
In 2002, Hardin felt the call to become president of the University of Central Arkansas, where he stayed until 2008.
At this time, Hardin decided to resign while undergoing treatment for a recurrence of cancer in his right eye. Although the tumor still remains, it has “gone down on regular basis and my prognosis from a health standpoint is very positive,” Hardin said.
As he began to once more look for work, Hardin was told of the opening at PBA by Dr. Rex Horne, president of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.
“I began researching Palm Beach Atlantic and I was thoroughly impressed with the people that I met with – the students, the faculty and the fact that Palm Beach Atlantic has stayed consistent with its mission to make disciples of Christ,” Hardin said.
Soon, Hardin contacted former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, for whom Hardin had served as a cabinet member. Huckabee told Hardin that PBA was “one of the most outstanding Christian universities in the nation,” and nominated Hardin for the presidency .
During his six years at UCA, enrollment and graduation rates increased and the school was granted NCAA Division I status. Hardin believes that PBA’s location and mission statement have primed it to become one of the best Christian universities in the nation, and he plans to “work diligently” to ensure that this happens.<
“My goal will be simply to tell the story of this outstanding Christian university, perhaps one of the best in the nation,” Hardin said. “When you start branding and telling the story of the great job and the consistent commitment to Christ, enrollment will increase once students find out about this wonderful institution.”
University spokeswoman Becky Peeling declined to comment on controversy that followed Hardin from his previous post at UCA. The controversy centered around a $300,000 bonus awarded to Hardin by the UCA Board of Trustees in 2008.
Hardin’s appointment here generated scores of anonymous comments on blogs. Some commenters worried about a politician leading the school, while others encouraged the PBA community to give Hardin a chance to prove himself in his new position.