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First Ladies Garden – Harding University


The newly dedicated First Ladies Garden at Harding University is designed to honor the past, beautify the present and plant seeds for the future.

Located between Shores and Stephens Halls, the new First Ladies Garden creates a beautiful green space for students and visitors to enjoy. The park serves as a connection between older parts of the campus and the newer Legacy apartments. It also serves as a connection to the women of Harding’s past and the women who will lead it into the future.

First Ladies Garden

The original plan for the garden was approved in 2013 as a way to honor First Lady Leah Burks, wife of former President and current Chancellor David Burks. As the plan for the garden continued to grow, it seemed fitting to include tributes to each of the universities first ladies.  The garden includes five distinct areas honoring former first ladies Woodson Harding Armstrong, Sallie Benson, Louise Ganus, Leah Burks and current First Lady Ann McLarty.  Each garden contains the favorite flower of each of the first ladies along with a bench that is dedicated to another woman who has positively influenced Harding and the community of Searcy.

First Ladies Garden Collage

The west end of the garden is marked by the bell tower in Legacy Park.  Legacy Park is a housing complex and each building in the complex is marked with a plaque to honor a past Harding legend.  Fifteen families will be honored in this new but historic-feeling area of campus.

Legacy Bell Tower

The beautiful fountain on the east end of the garden is dedicated to the Women for Harding (formerly known as the Associated Women for Harding) and the sculpture in the fountain represents their new logo.  Women for Harding is a diverse group of visionary women who share a passion for inspiring leadership.  Harding: First Lady (pictured below) was anonymously donated to the garden.

First Lady Fountain

One woman can make a difference.

Together, we can change the world!

In an effort to connect Harding’s history with the present, the garden includes some innovative technology.  Visitors can use a Bluetooth enabled smart device paired with an app called BeaconSage to learn more about the garden while they are on the grounds. When you get within 100 meters of a beacon, the app will notify you and take you to a web page with more information or a recording about the specific point of interest.  Each of the five First Ladies gardens is equipped with beacons.

First Ladies Garden Collage 2

The women of Harding have always been an integral part in the success of the university.  This garden provides an opportunity to recognize and honor the women who have played a role in Harding’s legacy.  Legacy Park and the First Ladies Garden is located just off of Dr. Jimmy Carr Street in Searcy, Arkansas.

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Julie Kohl works from home as a writer and virtual assistant while raising her young son. A former Yankee who was "converted" to the south by her husband, Julie has grasped on to rural life in a sleepy, blink-your-eyes-and-you'll-miss-it town in central Arkansas. Julie loves adventure. Not necessarily "scare-your-pants-off" adventure but the kind where you seek out new and exciting things. New foods, new places, new experiences. On her blog, Seek Adventures, Julie shares about the outdoor and travel adventures of her family as they camp and standup paddleboard across the South. You can also learn more about her writing on her site Seek Adventures Media.

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