It takes a villa

At a Harding Bisons basketball game in 1979, Dr. Don Shackelford sat down next to President Clifton L. Ganus Jr. to share his idea for an international studies program in Florence, Italy. The Florence Bible School was about to close, and Shackelford suggested that Harding could secure the use of their facilities for a low price. In Fall 1980, the very first group of Harding students and faculty traveled to Florence to study for a semester in the Tuscan hills. The program was so successful that Ganus and Shackelford sought to purchase a facility. In 1984, the Villa in Scandicci became the headquarters for HUF and has served as a home away from home for hundreds of students, faculty and alumni in the last four decades. 

Shackelford had already been directing international campaigns in Italy throughout the 1970s, and he dreamed that more young adults would travel the world, experience diverse cultures, learn from the history and philosophy of others, view the creative nature of humans in the arts and architecture, and grow closer to God. He believed that if more students traveled, more would see the need to work as missionaries.   

In the years that followed, Harding expanded international program offerings to include locations in Australasia, Europe, Greece, Latin America and Zambia. Hundreds of students each year choose to study abroad with faculty mentors and friends, and the skills they learn and memories they make are priceless. 

As you remember your own adventures studying abroad, you can help make it possible for future Harding students to have their own life-changing experiences. To give to the Shackelford Family Scholarship Fund for International Programs, visit 


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