Administration building renamed for Harding’s first African-American undergraduates

There were more than 100 events held during Harding University’s 2021 Homecoming celebration. One moving event was the renaming of the Administration Building in honor of two students who were true game changers for the university. Bro. Elijah Anthony and Dr. Howard Wright were the first two African American undergraduate students to earn bachelor’s degrees from the school. On Oct. 23, the building was named the Anthony and Wright Administration Building, in honor of the two gentlemen.

“Elijah Anthony and Howard Wright are deserving of this honor,” Harding President Dr. David Burks said. “I know both men, and I am grateful for their faithful leadership. I’m so glad future students will always be able to refer to this iconic building as the Anthony and Wright Administration Building.” In front of the building, a bronze three-dimensional plaque shows the images of Anthony and Wright and tells their stories.

Howard Wright and Elijah Anthony together in front of the Administration building both at the 2021 Homecoming Celebration as well as at their commencement ceremony in 1968.

Anthony was born in Birmingham, Ala., in 1946, and he enrolled at Harding in 1966. Wright was born in Chester, Pa., in 1945, and he enrolled at Harding in 1965. In May 1968, Anthony and Wright both graduated from Harding University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Since graduating, Anthony and Wright were both named distinguished alumni recipients, an award given by the university to respected alumni.

The recognition came after Dr. Bruce McLarty, retired school president, formed a task force “on recognizing African American achievement at Harding University.”

“I am grateful to former president Bruce McLarty for initiating the task force on recognizing the contributions of students of color since Harding integrated in 1963 and to Dr. Burks and the board for continuing this relevant and necessary work,” Anthony said. “The fact that my time spent at Harding gave no indication that I would ever be honored in this way is a testimony to the growth and progress of Harding University. For that, I applaud Harding’s administration, faculty, staff, and students for continuing the conversation toward racial equality and unity. I am humbled beyond expression that God has chosen my experiences at Harding and beyond to influence the lives of untold numbers of young people for generations to come. To God be the glory!”

“When we stepped on the Harding campus, we stepped into history,” Wright said. “When we graduated from Harding, we stepped into history. We didn’t come to Harding to make history. We didn’t even know we were making history. But, it was history, nonetheless.”

He continued, “It was Martin Luther King Jr. who said, ‘You don’t have to have a college education in order to be great. You don’t have to have your subject and verb agree in order to be great. In order to be great, you have to have a heart to serve!’ And since walking across that Administration Auditorium stage, God has blessed me for 5 1/2 decades to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. It’s all about a life of service.”

The Administration Building was built in 1953 and soon became the center of campus activity, holding various school events, presentations and chapel. Today, the building remains a prominent fixture on the front lawn, housing several administrative offices and a 973-seat auditorium.