Posted on February 18, 2018
For many black students who attended William & Mary during the 1980s and 1990s, “Dean” was a term of endearment—a title that demanded respect because it identified the power player in their corner—and only one individual carried that distinction: Dean Carroll Hardy.
Dr. Carroll Frances Stuart Hardy joined William & Mary in 1980, as Associate Dean of Minority Affairs (later, Multicultural Affairs and presently, the Center for Student Diversity). She later become Associate Vice President of Student Affairs in 1990, and from 1995 to 1998, she served as Associate Dean of Students. Her entire career at William & Mary, and indeed, her life outside of the school, was dedicated to fostering opportunities and spaces within which students could succeed.
During her career, Hardy established programs for students of diverse backgrounds such as the Student Transition Enrichment Program (STEP), organized the National Black Student Leadership Development Conference for college students, and founded the Hulon Willis Association, William & Mary’s African American alumni affinity group.
Many articles and interviews covering Carroll Hardy’s career and life intimated her role in increasing and retaining the number of black students at William & Mary. In 1988, The New York Times published an article titled, “Success Strategies for Minorities,” which heralded Dean Hardy’s methods of advocating for students and described her as: “a tall, black matriarchal figure who mixes sternness and tenderness in nudging her charges to perform,” and defined her role as being “central to the transformation.” In the article, Hardy stated: ”I’m honest. I’m fair. I’m a friend and I’m dependable. And they know that nothing is too bad that they can’t tell me, that I won’t help them find a way to do whatever they need. I cajole. I pray. But the thing I give them more than anything else is I believe in them. I believe they can learn, will learn and do learn.”
Dr. Carroll Hardy passed away on November 27, 2012, the same year she was recognized as an Honorary Alumna of the school to which she had dedicated so much of her life. While her absence continues to be felt, her legacy at William & Mary is palpable. Beyond the accounts found in periodicals, Dean Hardy’s impact can be seen simply by walking onto the William & Mary campus. In 2016, the residential housing building formally known as Jamestown North was renamed “Hardy” in honor of Carroll Hardy’s devotion to her students. It became the first building named after an African American woman on campus. Additionally, the Carroll F. S. Hardy Scholarship Endowment was established in 2017 to commemorate and honor the former dean.
Screenwriter and producer Will Fetters once wrote, “Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch.” How true this statement rings for the life and legacy of Carroll Hardy. More than in a building or in text, the significance of Dean Hardy’s life can be felt most acutely in the memories of those whose lives she impacted most. As an oral historian, I study memory and how and why certain moments and individuals stay with us long after an interaction or event passes. As part of the 50th Anniversary of African Americans in Residence Oral History Project, I have captured the memories of numerous individuals to chronicle the lived experience of African Americans at William & Mary. It is rare that the name “Dean Hardy” does not come up as a response to the question: “What mentors or advisors were particularly helpful or influential?” Time and again, interviewees smile and say, “Dean Carroll Hardy,” sometimes with a quivering voice or tear. These emotions convey Dr. Hardy’s legacy in a way that paper and brick never can. I close this post with a few “fingerprints” left by Dr. “Dean” Carroll Hardy:
Earl Granger, ‘92
“And [the STEP program] was what really introduced me to William & Mary, which ultimately framed and influenced my decision to apply a year later for admission. And I owe a lot of that credit to a woman who was here, who’s now deceased, Dr. Carroll Hardy…We used to call her Dean. And for years I had often heard of this woman,“Dean,” and I actually thought it was her name, not a title that’s associated with academic titles or whatever. But that’s the reason that I ultimately came to William & Mary, Dean Hardy.”
“…the other thing that Dean Hardy would often say to us is, “I need you to remember that this is your institution, so I need you to own it, and so I need you to own that experience.” And so, for her it was very much about creating student leaders and encouraging student leader development. And so that’s…I felt like I was taking advantage of those opportunities presented to me.”
“And I think she gave us the confidence. But what she did, I think she instilled in us that you’re here because you belong here, and you can do it. Now you have to apply yourself. And that’s not to say you don’t need help. It’s okay to ask for help. But do your part to ensure that you can get the help that you need. And I think that’s the one thing that sort of stuck with many of us.”
Connie Swiner, ‘81
“And then after that Dr. Carroll Hardy came to follow him, and she was everybody’s like advisor, mom, disciplinarian, whatever. And with me being, you know, in leadership, you know, it was that motivation that I talked about, I definitely wanted to interface with her about what was going on and what have you.”
“Yeah, she was great. She didn’t play, but she was great.”
Thomas Johnson, ‘92
“[Dr. Hardy] was by far the biggest influence on me while I was here.”
“Dean Hardy was very in tune to bringing in people that were popular at the time—people that were making a name for themselves in the African American community. And then she involved us in those roles. I remember going to the airport to pick up Giancarlo Esposito…and for me, at nineteen years old, to drive to the airport to pick up a celebrity that I had watched on shows like A Different World…it was just an amazing experience…So to have a minority administrator be in tune to bring in the things that appeal to our culture and what we did at the time was a gift that I don’t think we knew the gravity of at the time we were here.”
“She realized that she had put into place outlets for us as students here on campus and that she was looking out for us here on campus. But she also realized that we would graduate. And what was there for us to maintain that same connection when we graduated and have an affinity toward the college? So she… and a couple other people decided we needed an African American affinity group…It was a vision of hers. She set a committee in place to look for what she wanted and that’s how [The Hulon Willis Association] was born.”