Hardin Legacy Will Underpin the U of M's Honors Program, Honor Its Donor University News
For release: November 17, 2008

For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843

Mrs. Helen Hardin
Mrs. Helen Hardin
Before her death last weekend at age 95, Mrs. Helen Hardin, a long-time supporter of the University of Memphis gave $2 million to the University for the benefit of honors students.   In recognition of the significance of the gift for the University’s high-ability students, the program has been named The Helen Hardin Honors Program.

The gift by Mrs. Hardin, widow of Jabie Hardin, founder of the wholesale food distributor Hardin-Sysco and who was also a generous donor to the University, will help the University meet its goal of increasing its honors enrollment to a full 10 percent of the entire undergraduate student body, or about 1,500 honors students.  This fall, more than 1,400 U of M students are classified as honors students, with 350 of those being in the freshman class.  

In addition to assisting the University in hiring and retaining the best professors to teach honors students, the Hardin gift will also enable the University to offer financial assistance to the students themselves, many of whom, statistics show, come from households with modest incomes, often less than $50,000 a year.  Local studies also show that at the University of Memphis almost half of honors students are among the first generation of their families to attend college.

In acknowledging the gift, Provost Ralph Faudree described the effect that honors students have on a university’s academic environment.  “Academic excellence is key to a student’s college education, and honors students and the professors who teach them are a vital part of an institution’s level of excellence.  This very generous gift from Mrs. Hardin will not only be of direct benefit to the growing number of honors students who are attending the University of Memphis, but it will indirectly benefit all the students, all the faculty, and the academic reputation of the University as a whole.”

University President Shirley Raines said of the gift, “Honors students enliven the academic performance of the campus at large by creating a climate that encourages hard work, serious study, and high expectations of all students.  We are truly indebted to Mrs. Hardin and her family for their commitment to the highest levels of learning at the University of Memphis.  The Hardin legacy will have a far-reaching and long-lived effect on the University and its students.”

Established in 1975, the Honors Program recruits students with ACT scores in the top 10 percent nationally.  In addition to scholarship support, the Honors Program offers students the opportunity to take small classes and interdisciplinary seminars with the University’s top faculty.  The program also includes opportunities beyond the classroom, such as study abroad, independent research, and co-curricular activities.  Honor students also have the chance to participate in nationally recognized undergraduate research conferences and to extend their learning through internships and public service.

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