University of Central Arkansas alumni and philanthropists Rush and Linda Harding have pledged $500,000 to benefit the Norbert O. Schedler Honors College.

The Hardings, UCA alumni, have a long history of support and service to the institution.

In 2002, the Hardings established the Holloway-Hicks Scholarship to benefit African-American students. In 2004, they gave more than $1.4 million to UCA, which was the single largest gift in university history at that time. Those funds were used to support student scholarships and to construct Harding Centennial Plaza, a signature landmark on the campus.

"Nothing has impacted our lives and the lives of our family as much as UCA," Rush said. "Linda and I are so pleased to make this gift, and we look forward to supporting our alma mater in a meaningful way for years to come."

Rush served on the UCA Board of Trustees for 21 years, serving as chair three times. He was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the highest honor for a UCA alumnus, in 2007.

"Over so many years and in so many ways, the Hardings have made a remarkable difference at UCA. Our students, faculty and staff have all benefited from their heartfelt generosity. This latest gift to the UCA Honors College continues that generosity and honors the legacy and career of Dr. Norbert Schedler, the founder of the state’s first Honors College," said UCA President Tom Courtway. "As with their other gifts to UCA by Rush and Linda Harding, this will advance our state and our students’ learning for generations. We simply cannot thank them enough and are most grateful."

Established in 1982, the Norbert O. Schedler Honors College at UCA has become one of the most full-featured in the nation and is a leader in providing enhanced educational opportunities in a living/learning environment designed to develop citizen-scholars. The Schedler Honors College currently enrolls 300 students with an average ACT of over 29 and average high school GPA over 4.0. Nearly 1,600 Schedler Honors College alumni work in professional and technical fields across the globe. The Honors College is named for its founder, Norbert O. Schedler.

Although the gift will be unrestricted, the Schedler Honors College sees the gift providing great opportunities for Travel Abroad Grants (TAG), which support students interested in participating in trips organized by UCA’s study abroad office. TAG is available for junior- and senior-level students, typically funding 60 to 75 percent of a student’s global travel.

Other Honors College programs, such as Undergraduate Research Grants for Education (URGE) and Experiential Learning Funds (ELF), are likely to benefit from the gift. URGE supports Honors College scholars who wish to pursue undergraduate research, either through a research assistantship or through independent research, as well as funding support for conference participation. ELF supports opportunities for student participation in internships, creative endeavors or service projects.

"In the past 20 years, grants awarded through the Honors College have supported over 1,000 UCA honors students in studying abroad and conducting research, enhancing classroom education by opening the world to real life experiences. Rush Harding’s generous gift will expand these transformative opportunities for our students, and we are very appreciative," said Rick Scott, dean of the Schedler Honors College.