501 LIFE Visionaries: Dr. David Burks at Harding University

Dr. David Burks has been in leadership at Harding University in Searcy for 33 years. From 1987 to 2013, he served as president and then accepted the role of Chancellor. With the recent retirement of the president,  Burks has been named interim president while a committee searches for a permanent replacement.

Harding is the largest private university in the state. It is affiliated with Churches of Christ denomination. Currently, 4650 students are enrolled at both the undergrad and graduate levels. There are numerous graduate programs in the Allied Health area, business and in education. The newest programs include physician’s assistant, pharmacy, physical therapy and Communication Sciences and Disorders. Students come from all 50 states and many foreign nations.

Burks believes the university’s greatest strength is the commitment to the integrating of faith, learning and living. 

His goals for this year include:

1. To create the best experience possible for students in this COVID-19 environment where students can attend class in person and have as “normal” a relationship as they can possibly have and still be safe.

2. Continue to provide a Christ-centered education for every student who is here.

The University is looking ahead and strategically planning to achieve these goals over the next five years:

1. Increasing enrollment opportunities for students through innovative programs and by placing priority enrollment opportunities at all levels.

2. Create, effective immediately, a new organizational unit called “Harding University Online” where we will offer programs to markets all over the U.S.

3. Start new programs to meet the needs of tomorrow’s students.

4. Partnering with business firms to create programs that specifically meet their needs.

Burks considers the greatest challenge they face to be one of their strengths. “We are going against the grain in terms of offering a distinctively Christian higher educational experience in an increasing secular world,” he said.

“We need the support of every person possible to make our work possible,” the interim president said. “We want to join with the community at large, not only in Searcy but throughout the state, in producing graduates that truly make a difference in this world.”