For release: November 17, 2008
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843
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.
Mrs. Helen Hardin
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.