Photography by Dero Sanford
“Linda and I started with nothing except a great education, good parenting and big dreams. We have been fortunate and blessed. We feel it is our obligation to be generous with institutions that have impacted our family. UCA will always be at the top of that list.”
The vision for the University of Central Arkansas is ambitious; it spans beyond the campus and beckons fellows Arkansans to invest in the future of the Natural State. Congruent with this narrative + bold capital campaign, UCA Now: Impact Arkansas and Beyond – with its $100 million goal – is the largest fundraising effort in the history of the university. Current 2021 Chairmen Linda and Rush Harding believe that UCA is a beacon for the future of Arkansas with a culture of excellence that each generation can embrace.
The Harding legacy at the University of Central Arkansas is undeniable. For more than three decades, the family has supported the university through scholarships and programming as well as sponsorships. Linda and Rush, as well as their children and Rush’s parents, are proud alumni. Generous gifts have provided iconic campus locations including the Harding Centennial Fountain & Plaza – where friends and alumni gathered to celebrate the introduction of the capital campaign public phase. “This launch represents years of meetings, research and planning to ready this campus and our community for a call to action and a move into select company among universities,” UCA President Houston Davis reflects. “It is about how big our aspirations can become and how this great university can support the dreams of our students and this state. We are incredibly grateful to Linda and Rush Harding for their generosity and leadership in ensuring a great future for their university.”
The eight-year campaign includes a $3 million estate gift from Linda and Rush a pledge of steadfast commitment to the University of Central Arkansas that brings their cumulative giving to $7.2 million as the largest individual donors. “The size of this campaign makes it monumental to UCA and our people,” Rush explains. “What makes UCA special – and prepared to meet this challenge – is stakeholders in the community and this university. We graduate young people who are prepared to compete with the best and become leaders, called to nurture and continue the UCA experience for future generations.”
UCA Now: Impact Arkansas and Beyond includes four pillars: success, culture, wellness and excellence. Each represents a fundamental UCA vision + value. “Success is not always measured by income. Our nursing and education programs produce graduates that can change the world,” Rush continues. “Teachers can change the world one student at a time; wellness in spirit and health are so important in today’s world. We demand that we be excellent in every endeavor; always strive for excellence.”
Guests at the public phase ceremony enjoyed a commemorative coin toss into the Harding Centennial Fountain, symbolizing the importance of participation. This is a critical component of the campaign; every gift – large, small and corporate – brings more constituents into the university’s bold plan. The goal of 15,000 individual donors represents the inclusive nature of the future of UCA and Arkansas.