Taste of Harding 2018

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Taste of Harding 2017 was a success! The weather was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the student entertainers were wonderful.

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2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award

Congratulations to our 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient, Sheryl Straw Ragland ('80).


Choosing one Harding Academy graduate from among the thousands of amazing graduates is quite a challenge. But when one name comes up over and over, our ears perk up. When that graduate is described by multiple people as hard working, passionate, loyal, creative, energetic, and positive, we have to pay attention. When that graduate is also described as a person who lives by faith and who treats people with kindness, patience, love, care, and concern, we know we have a winner.


This year’s recipient of Harding’s Distinguished Alumnus Award has been not only a Harding student but also a Harding parent and Harding employee. She is a 1980 graduate, remembered for many things but especially for starring as Dolly Levi in Harding’s first production of Hello, Dolly!


She has worn many hats at Harding—kindergarten aide, LEAP director, and Director of Communications. She was always willing to do whatever it took to promote Harding both internally and externally. She was even known to dress as Prowler for photography sessions for brochures and catalogs. If you got to work alongside her, you knew her as a person who was constantly in motion. Always looking for ways to improve, she was the first to explore digital advertising.


One of her co-workers said this: “She is one of the hardest workers I've ever met. If you need something done, she is the person to ask. She takes pride in her work, and she won't quit until it's finished. She's always open to learning a new skill, and is not intimidated by big projects. But even more important than that is the love she has for everyone around her. You will be hard-pressed to think of a time you have heard her speak negatively about another person. Even when going through cancer treatments, she managed to be a source of encouragement to everyone else.”


Our Distinguished Alumnus is married to Bart, and they are the parents of two daughters who are Harding graduates: Ashley Ragland Kelton (Class of 2010) and Allison Ragland (Class of 2015) and one son-in-law, Taylor Kelton (Class of 2010). She is the daughter of Bob and Joy Straw, the sister of Brad Straw (Class of 1984), and the granddaughter of one of the patriarchs of Harding Academy, Mr. R. V. Lovinggood.


I can’t think of anyone who better embodies the ideals of Harding Academy than this recipient of Harding Academy’s 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award, Sheryl Straw Ragland.

2018 Esprit de Corp Award

Congratulations to our 2018 Esprit de Corps Award recipients, Brad and Barbara Anderson.


Esprit de Corps is defined as the common spirit existing in the members of a group and inspiring enthusiasm, devotion, and strong regard for the honor of the group.


We have been blessed for nearly 67 years by hundreds of people who believed so strongly in Harding that they were willing to give of themselves and to work for a cause that they believed to be bigger than any one person or any one interest. These people have worked tirelessly and unselfishly, often quietly in the background, not needing, seeking, or desiring attention or accolades.


Two of those are this year’s Esprit de Corps winners, Brad and Barbara Anderson.


They first connected with Harding when they enrolled their son Alec in Early Childhood (now Little Harding) when he was two. Their son Collin also began as a two-year-old. Alec graduated in 2013 and is attending MIT, while Collin graduated in 2017 and is attending Cornell.


Around 1998, Barbara served on a Compensation Task Force that analyzed Harding’s compensation package and made recommendations to the administration. In 2014 Brad joined our Board of Trustees.


Both Brad and Barbara are extremely committed to Harding. Their boys could have gone anywhere, but they believed in Harding. They are those parents that make teachers feel that they have made a difference in the lives of their children. A teacher said this: “After I've talked to Barbara or Brad, I always feel built up, like I can do it, and like this is what I'm supposed to be doing.” Always great encouragers of Harding’s faculty and staff, Brad could always be counted on to be that board member who actually came to inservice.


One teacher remembered the day Collin was to receive notification from Cornell. The teachers were exited to hear, but Collin had basketball practice at the very time he was supposed to find out. The teachers made Coach Starks let Collin check his email during practice. Then the teachers felt bad because they had found out about Collin’s acceptance into Cornell before his parents did. But they all got a message from Barbara about how excited Barbara and Brad were that his teachers found out first because the teachers were the ones who had helped get him there.

The Andersons are also clearly committed to Harding’s athletic programs. Even after they moved to New York, Barbara was at the freezing baseball game HERE last week, and she no longer has a kid on the team! They were fundamental in getting the batting pavilion for baseball, and Brad used to do all of the walk-up music for the all the baseball boys even when his own son wasn't on JV. That made our younger kids feel really important.


In addition to their involvement in athletics, Brad and Barbara are committed supporters of our band program. Always generous with their time and resources, they have donated instruments and funded numerous projects for the ban. They were our initial connection to “Give Kids the World Village” in Florida, where the band plays any time they’re in  Orlando. And it's all because of the Andersons.


The Andersons are supremely committed not just to their own children but to ALL of the kids here at Harding. You ask them and they come running. They absolutely love this school. They are true supporters, not just financially but also emotionally. Even after their boys were no longer in school, they were still at almost every single school event. They are bonded to this place.


You don’t have to spend much time with Barbara or Brad to realize that they are honest, humble, supportive, appreciative, and helpful. If you told them they are a blessing to Harding, they likely would tell you what a blessing Harding has been to their family. They’re that kind of people. They certainly embody the definition of Esprit de Corps, and so it is an honor to name Brad and Barbara Anderson as our 2018 Esprit de Corps Award recipients.