By Eric Butler: CNJ Correspondent
Bill Hardage wore many hats during his nearly 40 years at Wayland Baptist University.
He was an administrator and a track coach, and even served a stint as the school’s pilot. But more than anything, Hardage was an ambassador for the Plainview, Texas-based school.
Hardage, 63, a native of Oklahoma Lane, died March 25 in a plane accident. He was on a personal trip to pick up a small plane he had purchased.
The school’s executive vice president, Hardage was considering retirement in a couple of years. In the meantime, it was business as usual. And business for Hardage was a mission to promote the university.
“For him, this was a calling,” said Gary Mitchell, interim dean at Wayland’s Clovis branch. “His life and work touched hundreds, maybe thousands of students. If it weren’t for him, their lives wouldn’t be the same.”
Fellow administrators lauded his impeccable work ethic and love for the university, noting that it was his energy and enthusiasm that helped Wayland procure the property that is currently McCoy Hall.
“Words cannot begin to express Wayland’s grief and my sadness over the loss of our gifted executive vice president, Dr. Bill Hardage,” said university President Paul Armes. “Bill loved Wayland and contributed to her success as an institution of higher learning in more ways than any of us will ever know. He will be missed greatly by every member of the Wayland family. I will miss my very good friend and fellow pilot.”
Friona native Danny Murphree is the property manager for Wayland at its main campus in Plainview. Like Mitchell, Murphree first became familiar with Hardage as a track athlete at WBU in the late 1960s — a time when Hardage was starting work at the college as an assistant track coach.
“He was just an extraordinary person. He was a great administrator — he could see the big picture of everything,” Murphree said. “He knew where Wayland wanted to go.”
Hardage was an accomplished pilot. He spent many years as the university’s pilot along with handling his administrative duties, often shuttling officials to graduation ceremonies at external campuses or to other locations on Wayland business.
“I was stunned. You always know that’s a possibility. It hit us all pretty hard,” Mitchell said. “He loved to fly. It’s difficult for us, but he died doing what he loved to do.”