Don Harper is motivating a new generation of minority students at Anderson University through his book, “Blessed is the Man,” and through involvement with AU’s Diversity and Inclusion weekend.
The book is filled with stories of God’s providence, especially the story of how his dad, an African-American farmer, received a loan to purchase 80 acres of land from a white banker.
The elder Harper had virtually no collateral. Don stated, “The land purchase transformed the lives of a family of 13 and leveled the playing field at the height of segregation in rural Alabama.”
Harper went on to graduate from college and secure a vice president’s position with Goodyear, which enabled him to travel much of the world. He and his wife, Gerri, moved to Seneca and joined a Southern Baptist church for the first time. She sang in the choir, and he became a deacon, teacher of the church’s largest Sunday school class, and chairman of the board of trustees at AU.
He soon became involved with AU’s Diversity and Inclusion mission. James D. Noble, vice president for Diversity, Community, and Inclusion at AU, pointed out that Harper’s book was incorporated into the mission of the school’s diversity and inclusion plan. He said, “AU designed a new Diversity and Inclusion Leaders Scholarship competition for incoming freshmen and transfer students. The competition is held on the heels of the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in January and culminates in February as one of the marquee events.”
The competition is a two-day event that typically attracts over 125 students. “I challenge the students with the story of my book, and each student is given a copy of the book. The students are challenged to read my book and find my ‘Rosa Parks’ moment in the book,” Harper said. “The first one to send to me the correct ‘Rosa Parks’ moment receives a gift card to the AU campus bookstore. Some emails have been returned to me within hours after leaving the competition events.”
Harper shared that the typical makeup of students attending the competition is: 30 percent African-American, 30 percent Hispanic, 30 percent Asian, 5 percent American Indian, and 5 percent Pacific Islander or foreign national.
He said he uses Psalm 37:23 about God ordering our steps “as a means to demonstrate all the things God had to do to get me where I am. I tell them that no matter the circumstances of their birth, location, social status, or ethnicity, God did not make them to be victims but overcomers.”
He emphasized Luke 1:37 to the students: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
He wants people to discuss “race, ethnicity, and inclusion with dignity and respect. Diversity and inclusion are God’s design for the world.” He said the experience of a black farmer without collateral and a white banker living in the segregation era but agreeing to grant a loan are examples of God’s grace.
The story in his book, he believes, should be shared in churches, small groups, and families “to bring our nation back together again and to make a lasting and meaningful contribution to every community.”
His book can be ordered through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online booksellers, or from the author at Donharp001@aol.com.