SEARCY, Ark. (News release) — Dr. Clifton L. Ganus, Jr., Harding University’s third president and beloved chancellor emeritus, died Monday, Sept. 9 in Searcy, Arkansas. He was 97.
Born April 7, 1922, to Clifton, Sr. and Martha Jewell Ganus in Hillsboro, Texas, Ganus gave the majority of his life to Harding. He served 73 years at the University beginning in 1939 when he came to Harding as a freshman majoring in Bible and history. He graduated in 1943, returned as faculty in 1946, and served in administrative roles beginning in 1956 as vice president. He served 22 years as president, from 1965 until 1987, when he became the University’s first chancellor, and became chancellor emeritus in 2013.
An enduring part of the University community, Ganus came to work in his campus office nearly every day and faithfully attended daily chapel services alongside University students through the Spring 2019 semester when his health began to waver. He was an avid sports fan, attending all home and away football games. Even as his health declined through the summer, he mustered the strength to be on campus to personally greet the football team as they arrived for fall classes only three weeks ago.
“It’s impossible to think of Harding University without Dr. Ganus in the picture,” Harding University President Bruce McLarty said. “That is why it is so difficult for us to imagine our future without his continuing to meet us on the sidewalk or to greet us in chapel every day.”
Ganus established the University’s President’s Council and Women for Harding organizations to strengthen the University’s fundraising and student recruiting efforts. Under his leadership, Harding attained university status in 1979. He established several several programs that continue to be the school’s most notable offerings: a NASA research program, the nursing program, the Walton Scholars program, the Doctor of Ministry degree at Harding School of Theology in Memphis, and in 1985 initiated the school’s first study abroad program, which has become one of Harding’s most distinctive strengths having grown to seven programs worldwide.
Ganus was a catalyst behind the University resuming intercollegiate athletics in 1957 and remained one of the biggest supporters of Bison athletics. In recognition of these contributions, the University’s main athletics facility is named in his honor — Ganus Activities Complex.
A renowned speaker and lecturer, his public addresses earned him seven George Washington Honor Medals from Freedoms Foundation.
“From the time he arrived as a freshman in 1939 until today, Dr. Ganus has been a living connection to almost all of Harding’s 95-year history,” McLarty said. “His trademark smile and his joyous spirit were infectious. He was the president of Harding when I was a student here back in the 1970s. We lived in awe of his faith, his wisdom, his love for us and his devotion to Harding.”
Ganus was a member of College Church of Christ in Searcy, serving as a teacher, minister and elder during his more than 70 years as a member.
He is survived by his wife of 76 years, Louise Nicholas Ganus; three children, Cliff (Debbie), Debbie (Richard) Duke and Charles (Patty); 10 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be shared on the University’s website and social media accounts once finalized. The University flag will fly at half-mast until the day of the funeral. More information on the life and legacy of Dr. Ganus can be found at harding.edu/Ganus. A form is available on the page for visitors to share a memory or anecdote honoring his immeasurable impact on this world.