WASHINGTON -- West Virginia University's outgoing president David C. Hardesty Jr. wasn't stuck on history here June 26 as he delivered his final State of the University address to the state's congressional delegation, alumni and friends on Capitol Hill.
But the president who is retiring in September did focus on lessons learned during his tenure -– and he thought out loud on how that knowledge could be used to advance WVU's mission through the 21st century and beyond.
"Only strategic thinking, and principled decision-making based on mission, vision and values offer a principled way to decide what our future will be," he told an enthusiastic crowd of some 360 people at the Washington Court Hotel, including U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, Shelley Moore Capito and Nick Rahall.
"Always ask, 'What is the big picture in this situation, and how can we best allocate the limited resources we have for maximum effect?'"
Allocating resources for maximum effect was the hallmark of Hardesty whose 12 years in Stewart Hall made him WVU's longest permanently appointed president. The Shinnston native and Rhodes scholar assumed the top post at his alma mater in 1995 after serving in state government and as a practicing attorney.
Since then, he said, WVU has made forward steps that are both brave and innovative:
* Enrollment has gone up 25 percent –- in recent years alone –- and when professors call roll, students from all 50 states and 100 countries answer.
* At least 4,000 jobs –- "Good and stable, high-paying jobs," Hardesty said –- are expected to be created in the near future by WVU's research efforts.
* A new, WVU-affiliated medical school has been built in the Mountain State's bustling Eastern Panhandle.
* New and refurbished facilities flourish on the campuses in Morgantown.
* WVU has built new alliances with West Virginia University Institute of Technology.
* Success on the football field and basketball court has given new, national recognition to WVU
* Inspirations in the classroom and research labs have launched 35 bold, new programs over the years, from nanotechnology and biometrics, to forensic science and forensic accounting.
Native West Virginians are benefiting from the research and mission, Hardesty said, while halfway across the world, WVU alumni get misty-eyed when they hear the John Denver song, "Country Roads" -– in Shanghai.
Hardesty closed his remarks by thanking those present for working with him, and encouraging them to do the same with his successor, Michael S. Garrison, who attended the event.
"And so, as I speak to you for the last time as WVU's president, I thank you for your work ... I know that in the future, you will work with President Garrison as he and his leadership team continue to advance WVU's standing as a world-class university," he said.
Hardesty was introduced by distinguished alumna Sarah Lovell, a biometrics and computer engineering graduate from Martinsburg who, as a student, did internships in the White House and studied abroad in Africa.
"When I see a student like Sarah, who seizes opportunities to advance her education, I remember why we work so hard," he said. "When I shake the hand of an M.D. whom I remember recruiting out of a rural West Virginia high school, I remember why I am part of this great university."
He also remembers something else, he told the Washington audience.
"I remember my first year like it was yesterday and can honestly say I have never forgotten why I was so excited and honored to be president of my alma mater."
WVU's State of the University address in Washington is hosted by the National Capital Area Alumni Chapter. Representatives announced at the event that the Chapter is contributing $1,000 each to the David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas Endowment and the Susan B. Hardesty Mountaineer Parents Club Endowment. The endowments were established by the WVU Foundation to honor the Hardestys.
Proceeds from the luncheon benefit the John F. Nicholas Jr. National Capital Area Chapter Scholarship Fund, which provides financial assistance to WVU students from the D.C.-Metro area. This year's contribution is $15,000, pushing the Fund to approximately $98,000 over the years.