Former Harding University administrator and vice president of advancement Mike Williams is returning to the school to be its next president after leading Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama, since 2015.
Both are private Christian schools affiliated with the Churches of Christ.
Williams takes over June 1 for David Burks, who resumed the position after his successor Bruce McLarty retired in October 2020. McLarty had been president since 2013. The university’s board of trustees said after McLarty’s departure that a change in leadership was needed because of economic and higher education trends that had “created an extremely challenging business environment.”
Harding’s enrollment fell from a peak of around 7,000 in 2011 to 4,793 students in the fall 2019 semester. In fall 2020, enrollment decreased further to 4,621.
Enrollment was up 7.6% to 4,970 this fall. The school in Searcy attributed the increase, in part, to new programs in multiple colleges and departments. It also pointed to a retention rate above 84%, the fourth straight year the school has met that benchmark. Harding has more than twice the enrollment of the next-largest private university in Arkansas.
Faulkner University’s website says its enrollment is 3,262.
Williams, who graduated from Harding in 1985 with a bachelor’s in business administration, was chosen as the university’s sixth president after a national search. He said in a news release that he was “extremely humbled” to get the job.
“Given the seismic changes in our culture, Harding is poised for this decisive moment,” Williams said. “I look forward to collaborating with distinguished Christian scholars, extraordinary students and passionate alumni to envision a bold and robust future.”
Robert Walker, chair of the university’s board of trustees, said that Williams “fits the profile as established for our next president perfectly.”
“He is a mature, spiritually sound and Christ-centered man,” Walker said. “He aligns with our mission and understands our culture. He brings vision, strategic thinking and the business acumen of an experienced university president. He received overwhelming support from the board of trustees.”