Virginia Hardy Oral History Interview


Dr. Virginia Hardy
Narrator

Donald Leggett
Interviewer

East Carolina University
June 24, 2020
Greenville, North Carolina

Donald Leggett:
Okay, um, this is Wednesday, June 24 2020 at approximately 10:40 in the morning. My name is Donald Y. Leggett and I'm a 50 year employee of East Carolina University and currently working out of the Chancellor's division on a part time basis doing special assignments. I retired in 1997 from full time service as Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations. Today, I'm here in my home in Greenville, North Carolina conducting an oral history interview with Dr. Virginia D. Hardy, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at East Carolina University. We're doing this by way of the WebEx system as part of a project entitled, the Rise of Alpha Dog. Dr. Hardy so as to put all this in perspective, why don't we begin by asking you to give us a brief biographical outline such as, where you were born, where you live, jobs you've held, and actually what you are doing now. I can imagine how what you're doing these days with all the things that are going on, but go ahead. (01:16)

Virginia Hardy:
Sure thing. Thank you, Don, for this opportunity to, to share a little bit and be a part of the rise of Alpha Dog project. So, I am a native of Greenville, Pitt County, so born and bred right here in Greenville, just up the street, actually. I did all my k-12 education here in Pitt County, Pactolus Elementary, Wellcome Middle School and then North Pitt High School. So I got a great education here. And I'm the youngest of eight children. My parents were were farmers here, here in Pitt County and sent all of their children to school, which we're very proud of and happy about and have lived here for my my life, right, I went there, exception of going away to college at UNC-Chapel Hill [unclear] graduate, majored in education. I always wanted to be the teacher. My eighth grade English teacher, Gladys Sanders had a huge impact on me, and really solidified for me that I wanted to teach and so I did my undergrad at Carolina, loved my four years there, and then came back to Greenville and taught middle school English, which is what we had at the time and so I taught English for a while. It while I was teaching, just I realized that I was doing a lot of counseling of my students. And so I was I wanted to make sure I was doing it right and doing the right thing. So I came back, I went back to school, and actually went to East Carolina to get my master's degree in counseling. And once I did that, I then became an assistant principal at Welcome Middle School, where I had attended as a student actually. And then shortly thereafter left and did a did a, a stent at a at a two year school called Chowan at that time, it was two years and private and worked there. It was a short stint because my father was diagnosed with throat cancer, and yeah, and I wanted to come back home to take care of him and my mom. And so I did and got a job at East Carolina, as the as a counselor at the medical school. And I will be honest, at that point, I was looking for a job. Anything would have been okay with me. I just wanted to get back home to take care of my parents and grew to love medical education. I truly love that. I love the med school, loved what our mission is what we're doing. And so, ended up didn't plan on this of course but stayed at [unclear] for 16 years. It was a great ride loved it still to this day of medical education. And when I left the School of Medicine, in 2009 I was the Senior Associate Academic Dean there. I've done a lot of good things there at med school. And then, from there, got the job that I'm currently the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. So I've been at the university for gosh, 20 almost 27 years, November will make 27 years. I was 12 when I started, understand (laughter). (04:50)

Donald Leggett:
I understand and the remark you made a while ago about just looking for a job. When I came here I was doing a little more than just looking for a job. But I had always wanted to come back to East Carolina University and I think most anything they would have thrown out there just for the opportunity to get back. fortunate that was able [unclear] all this time. (05:21)

Virginia Hardy:
Yeah, it's been a great fit. I had, the School of Medicine, I had several jobs in between the 16 years and love this institution have had several opportunities to to have other other jobs in other states. And (05:40)

Donald Leggett:
I can imagine that you probably have.

Virginia Hardy:
Yeah, the place keeps calling my name. So thoroughly enjoy it and believe in what we do here at East Carolina.

Donald Leggett:
Very good and we're glad that you're here. Of course having been in the area all your life really for the most part, you must have been aware of East Carolina whatever it might have been called at the time East Carolina University. But when what were the first things that you remember about East Carolina, being aware that it was such a place and (06:16)

Virginia Hardy:
So, you're right. I kind of always heard about it living here in Greenville. But I think that my first real [unclear] with ECU was through my brother, my brother Milton was here was a here as a student and loved it and was always talking about East Carolina and so truly did get to get a feel for what the campus and what the university was like. But the other pieces that he talked favorably about what his experiences were at that same time period, I guess it was also this notion, I was really getting into what what colleges were all about and all of that. There was this thing, there was these posters, little stickers I remember seeing that would have these sayings. And you may know, because everybody remembers that was UNC Chapel Hill NC State and then this whole ECU thing, right? And all of this, this gnashing of teeth among the three of them, which continues actually, but there were these little sayings that were about, you know, those something about culture culture was UNC, agriculture was NC State, and ECU was easy you, right? (07:36)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, I have heard that. I don't believe that but I have heard that.

Virginia Hardy:
This notion of ECTC but it was about ECGC was was was not used faithfully or positively. It was about being easy to get into ECU and easy to get out of it. And so it had that kind of a feel to it, and it also had this feel of Halloween. ECU because of the Halloween party that happened every year with downtown. It was just this thing of go there, go to ECU one have a darn good time. Go there. And so now my brother had a different impression of ECU and what he was telling us was a lot different than what the public was saying about East Carolina. (08:33)

Donald Leggett:
Mm hmm. And I think Dr. Hardy, that's oftentimes very, very different in terms of what we close to the campus, feel about our university and then what we hear further as you get further in, sometimes not the same things we oftentimes find a better impression of the university the further away you get from the campus. (08:58)

Virginia Hardy:
Yes.

Donald Leggett:
Sometimes you do closer by the campus here. So you've pretty much told me what I was going to ask you next was, what was your first impression of East Carolina? Pretty much have outlined that for me. But, has it improved, the impression changed and if it has, when do you think it might have started to change? After maybe you enrolled or [unclear] better as you got older? (09:24)

Virginia Hardy:
Yeah, so truly as I get older, it changed as I learned more about East Carolina themselves. So I didn't come to ECU as an undergraduate, and so I was still hearing those same types of stories about the institution. However, when I came here as an as a master's level student, I wasn't I wasn't as involved with because I was working, I was still teaching full time and so I was taking night classes. I didn't look so I didn't get on campus and I wasn't a part of the campus. I just came to classes and most of those were in Rivers Buildings. And so that was as far as I would go, that and Joyner Library of course. And, but what I, what I the education that I got through my master's program, also in modifying that impression. I remember many of those instructors that I had at ECU like Florence Weaver was awesome. Flow was, Flow was, I love Flow and Dr. C. [unclear] So I remember these I remember these wonderful people, faculty members, professors who cared about us, they cared about the students who were in their classes, and what we what was needed in order to go out and do great counseling. My impression of East Carolina and the type of education that that was being given out and taught and must be received, really did begin to change as I got engaged with ECU. And now it has changed tremendously, of course, because I've been working here. (11:06)

Donald Leggett:
Now that you're into it all. Yeah. When you decided to come back here to work on your, your master's degree, was ECU a first choice institution for you to do that?

Virginia Hardy:
It was, it was the only choice actually. Yeah, it was my first choice, it was my only choice. My sister, Faye, had gotten her master's in counseling from here. She was raving about the opportunity and what her experience had been. Fortunately, I had some of the same instructors that she had, that she raved about. So it was my only choice. I thought about some other places. But my sister had really enjoyed it, that that particular program, and I wanted, I trusted her, so I wanted to do the same same problem she did she had done. She also was the one who went off to Carolina, so I followed her there. So I followed [unclear] well. She wasn't leading me astray and I knew that university [unclear] was going to work with me. I knew that it had a strong education program and while I wasn't necessarily going into their education program, I knew that the counseling program was in the, well is in still the College of Education. And I tried, really did appreciate the fact that the College of Education had such a high, strong reputation across the state. I learned that while teaching because a lot of a lot of my fellow teachers were ECU graduates. (12:48)

Donald Leggett:
Sure, yeah.

Virginia Hardy:
I was working alongside of.

Donald Leggett:
You would find it hard to find a teacher who was not an ECU graduate. Particularly in this part of the state in North Carolina.

Virginia Hardy:
Exactly.

Donald Leggett:
And I suppose then that you're glad that you ultimately chose to come back here and get your master's. Having said that, during that period of time, what are you most proud of that happened maybe while you attended, working on your program? We'll get into some of the areas later but, during that period of time, your accomplishments in in attaining your master's degree and so forth, what are some things that you're really proud of that you feel like was maybe a special to ECU and something that you're glad that you came here and found that here when you got here? (13:46)

Virginia Hardy:
So for me, I think it was, it gave me confidence, more confidence to do even more things and it helped to strengthen my belief, my own self belief of being able to go out and do and spread my wings a little bit in that I could I could survive in this world and that I had a strong foundation that had already been provided. And of course, you had a sports scene going on at that time, still had ECU football and basketball at that point actually was pretty strong, and so those were those were good moments. I, the one thing I regret, I would probably say Don, is that um, because I was a I was an adult and I was working full time, I did not take full advantage of all of those opportunities that were there. I didn't, I didn't go to those games. I didn't participate in and get my hands into everything here at ECU during my, my two years here getting my master's. And I regret that because I, I see what other folks doing now, and I had some colleagues who were doing it, who was doing the program and they were having a much longer experience then I did. (15:10)

Donald Leggett:
You know, it's interesting that you said that because in, well the first one of these interviews I've done in this project was my own. Alston interviewed me and she [unclear] basically what you're saying? Did I get involved in extra things, extra curricular activities, and whatever during the time I was here, did I attend a lot of the opportunities that we had cultural and educational kinds of things? And my answer was that I had worked too hard to get involved in a lot of extracurricular activities. I had to work my way through school. But the thing that I think maybe one of the things that I regret most about my two times here when undergraduate and graduate degrees, was not taking advantage of more of the cultural and educational programs that are put in front of us every day. (16:08)

Virginia Hardy:
Exactly.

Donald Leggett:
What a waste, get involved in those and take advantage of them and looking back I just, why didn't, know why. I was so tired when I got in...

Virginia Hardy:
Exactly

Donald Leggett:
Anywhere else and then later when I came back, I still did not do as much of that as I've really [unclear]. Dr. Hardy, I've sort of divided this as we go through these these items in the three parts and, we've talked now about your earlier times, and your your education and this type thing. And now I want to go on and talk a little about, well the topic of all of this and get into the matter of the underdog perspective. An attitude that maybe we might find in some cases. So let me ask you this when you were enrolled here and later as you were associated with ECU, did you feel that ECU was looked down on, sort as an underdog school? (17:22)

[Connection problems occurred at (17:36) which dropped Dr. Hardy from the webcall. Therefore this final recording is the result of combining two recordings that have had their beginning and endings cleaned up.]

Donald Leggett:
Okay, let me kinda get back into where we were. Dr. Hardy was saying that she did agree that there was some who perceived ECU to be an underdog institution. My next question was going to be, where do you think this attitude or this impression manifests itself most? Where's it most apparent in your mind? (17:52)

Virginia Hardy:
Where is that most apparent, meaning at home or in what areas?

Donald Leggett:
I'm not hearing you well, [unclear] on the screen there.

Virginia Hardy:
Well you asked the question about where's the most apparent.

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, yeah, I suppose Dr. Hardy what I'm what I'm getting at is that do you do people feel that our academic programs are? Or is it, is it more most obvious in athletics? Or is it most obvious here, there? Where do you think people are getting [unclear] from? (18:33)

Virginia Hardy:
It started. I think it, well I think it's twofold right? I think that that is it is more apparent or recognizable in academics. I [unclear] the education or at least they did, at some point, believe that the education was not high quality. But they believed that it was easy to get in and it was easy to get out. And that [unclear], again, that those who couldn't get it in any other school would, they went to East Carolina. And then from an athletic perspective, it was this notion of you want to play with the big, with the big dogs, but you know your to little so you have to stay on the porch to use one of those euphemisms. And so in that we weren't, we weren't winning and as much as other schools across the state were winning. And so I think it came out there was in both of those realms, I believe, athletically and academically. The academic piece of that was was truly more concerning because students get, students get a solid education here in East Carolina. It is top notch. I've been to three schools here in the UNC system. And out and I say to people all the time, I'll put you can put your education that you get in East Carolina up against other schools within the state of North Carolina, and know that it is a solid quality education. (20:00)

Donald Leggett:
So from the very beginning when you were aware of ECU, and then when you got involved in in ECU, it was apparent that, generally throughout that, that we were sort of considered to be an underdog institution. I assume that's right and it was very recognizable to you that that was the case. Now, you know, the underdog thing and I think in in our list of questions, we said something to the effect that is this a blessing or a millstone to be [unclear]. Reckon you can look at one or two ways, but does being an underdog serve, particularly athletics, well? (20:50)

Virginia Hardy:
Um,

Donald Leggett:
Or at all really [unclear]

Virginia Hardy:
Yeah, so I'm going to answer from two angles actually. So, so athletic, athletically it may right. One people, at least I do, I pull for the underdog almost, a lot of times. Secondly, people underestimate us from our athletic perspective and so, so we sometimes can fool them in that regard. So that's so sometimes it's a plus, as it relates to that. I think I do that, I think we, and I can't remember if I said this before, but I think it become it became, it became too much of an identity for us that the institution wore the underdog title. And as we wore that underdog title, it it became, it became a self fulfilling prophecy. Right? There were times when [unclear] work harder and push harder to go get it into it to claim it. And then it was time for us to say, Oh, well, we can't because you know, nobody's gonna, we're not going to get the funding, yada yada is able to double edged sword in my opinion. Once we let go of it we let go of that moniker, then we would shine. Right? We let our light shine and we let it because we're not this underdog, right? We do more with less. We truly do more with less, and we do darn good job at it. But the chip on our shoulder, because of who we are and what we done, I say, the chip is gone. We are here. We are productive. We are taking care of people and we are educating people who are going out and doing great things. And so the chip now is on other people's shoulders, because they because that's what they want to see. They want to see us that way. But that's not who we are and not who we're presenting ourselves to be as an institution. (23:03)

Donald Leggett:
So you feel maybe, we maybe right now are the the tipping point between being underdog and and will reintroduce the word alpha dog,

Virginia Hardy:
Alpha dog, right?

Donald Leggett:
Yeah. We we have we as good as anybody and we'll compete with anybody and win with anybody and so

Virginia Hardy:
That's what I say, right. So that Don is really important though to me, is we, we're not taking a backseat to anyone. We're not saying we're the best at any and everything by any stretch of the imagination, but we're saying, we are competitive, we are productive, we have quality, and we're not going to put caveats on who we are as an institution. We're done putting caveats. (23:55)

Donald Leggett:
You know, while, about the time we had the glitch a while ago, I wrote down the word on my notes here that says, internalizing. I wanted to come back to the word internalized. I think that's an awfully good point Dr. Hardy, that over the years that we talk to our friends and and we go back and talk about the good times and all this and in the part of going to college to some degree having fun and having parties now and then, everybody does it. I think it would be an awkward, boring place nobody had a party [unclear]. I know when I was in the Alumni office , [unclear], there was a lot of conversation about the party school thing that you were mentioning and some of the people closest to my office were talking a lot with their friends about all the times when we partied, w partied, we partied and then we'd get in private session we'd set there and what are we going to do about this party school image? Finally, I said let me tell you what we do about this party school image. We don't ever mention it again. Just don't ever say the word. And I don't want to hear the word. I don't know if that had anything to do with anything [unclear]. (25:25)

Virginia Hardy:
So I think though Don, I think the party school image, and we all know that every institution for the most part is a party school. That's what that's what college is right? It happens, but I think we take ownership of the phrase, let's take ownership. And we say we're a party school, come party with us, come party with our top ranked college business, come party with our top ranked Brody School of Medicine. Come party with us and our keep filling in the blanks, of top ranked School of Nursing. Come party with us. Yes, we are party school and we party [unclear] Business College and Nursing [unclear]. We can do that, right? We're taking ownership of it and we're going to internalize it from the positive and not the negative, because they're not going to change. They whoever This is, this mysterious they are, they're not going to change. So we have to be the ones to take ownership of this and do it. We're not oppressed as an institution and we're not some, some, some some university that people need to go woo, woo, woo to. (26:42)

Donald Leggett:
And I think we mentioned a while ago, with the underdog role has served athletics, well, maybe and in some cases, maybe some other parts of the university and to motivate people to fight a little harder to fight upstream and this type thing to try to prove something and it didn't have that little chip on their shoulder. I think there comes a time when we have to stand up beside all of them. Here I am giving my opinion now. I shouldn't be doing this in the interview. But, are we still there? (27:22)

Virginia Hardy:
We are.

Donald Leggett:
Okay. And but, [unclear] what I was going to say

Virginia Hardy:
So I can I can pick up from that Don. East Carolina University is a comprehensive institution, public institution who is taking students from where they come and helping them to move to wherever it is they want to go, and providing them the education, the skills, the knowledge, the confidence, the confidence, to be able to go out and do all kinds of things. So, so if people want to continue to consider us to be an underdog, then let them do it. Right? They can sleep on us if they want to, we're gonna continue to push and push and push. (28:19)

Donald Leggett:
And we can get back into mainstream of this little glitch keeps happening and it tends to get me off track just a moment. But anyway, the the next point I was going to make is do you think that there is a reluctance about the underdog role? I mean, how is it, its clearly not going to be easy if in fact, that's what we try to do. Is there a reluctance out there to give it up that it, oh, it's, and I think I made the the analogy here in some of my remarks that it's sort of like having an old pair of shoes, you know that you need a new pair, but the old pair feels good. I wonder if maybe that's not where we find ourselves with this sometimes. It's such a good comfort zone to be in and when we win, we celebrate and when we lose, well we're supposed to lose anyway and, you know, thing. But then I'' close this phase of it out by saying, what difference does it make if we're an underdog? If we are perceived [unclear] underdog? Is it [unclear] the difference? Does it make a difference? (29:42)

Virginia Hardy:
I don't think it should make a difference. Don, I don't think it should. Again, it's about again, I think it is about what are we doing, what are we producing? And when we so from an athletic perspective way if we're considered the underdog and then we beat whomever that is right and put it put it put one [unclear] really a hyped thing and that's beautiful. And still even better because we beaten, you know, big team X. However, even if we even if I don't want, I don't want the university to continue to think about it that way. Right, we belong table, we belong at the table. We fit, we belong, we can and or and we can hang, right? Again, [unclear] everything well because we don't and no institution does. But we can sit at the table and we can have the conversations with everybody because we belong at the table and [unclear] at some point, right? Every institution is an underdog in some area. So if we can look at it from that perspective, at least for me. The issue that I have with [unclear] underdog is or are having a chip on your shoulder, it does get internalized and it says to people, we can't be any better than this. This is our limit and we should stop [unclear]. (31:20)

Donald Leggett:
My dog's barking.

Virginia Hardy:
I see, I hear.

Don Leggett:
I will have to open the door and let him out. Okay. He's gone now to catch all the bad people that were out there. Are you still there Virginia?

Virginia Hardy:
I am. Yes, sir.

Donald Leggett:
Okay. Let's just take a deep breath here for a moment and move on to the last phase and we'll move through that I think fairly hurriedly and, but it's kind of tied all together and to close it out. Let's move now, we've been through the early years, we've been through the underdog. Now let's talk about the alpha dog for a little bit. Is it time to shift, nd I think you've already answered this. If it is now time to shift the focus to alpha dog and then how can we do it., and where's the tipping point between underdog and alpha dog. We have pretty much discussed the fact that maybe that's right now and it might not be. Then there is maybe some reluctance to abandon it. But then let's assume that we do all of that, we are abandoned it all, the underdog role, and we accept the fact that we are alpha dog now. What does our alpha dog university look like? I know that's a difficult one.(32:57)

Virginia Hardy:
So I think the alpha dog role looks like highlighting the good, telling the story. Right, the ECU narrative. Here's the impact we're having in the region that is to North Carolina. Here's how we are helping our region, our state to grow to do it. I think the alpha dog roll looks like pride, right? Continue pride being the alpha dog, we're the alpha dog in education and strong teachers. We're the alpha dog in producing strong primary care physicians. We're the alpha dog in fill in the blank and we're telling that story regularly and often and loudly. We're going to toot that horn as much as we possibly can. So we're going to take ownership of what we do well, we're going to tell people what we do well, we're going to strengthen what we do well, and then the pieces that were were, you know, we don't do so well that we're midway in, we're going to strengthen those. We're going to take our identity, our authentic identity, and we're going to tell the world who we are as East Carolina University, alpha dog in whatever. (34:23)

Donald Leggett:
You know, we talk about where we ultimately want to go and what we ultimately want to be and when we might arrive and all this type thing. What do you feel like is ECU's, for lack of a better term, our own manifest destiny? Where, what would we have to do to sort of feel like that we arrived? How, how far do we need to progress to? (34:58)

Virginia Hardy:
You know what Don, I don't know what that is. Because when you look at some of our stats, right, we're in we're in high rankings and various, you know, truly reputable studies and rankings. We're in the top of those. We we know what our folks do when they graduate when they leave here and what they go out and do. We know that our faculty members are doing research that is phenomenal and having impact all over. Ao I do think, and we know that we have athletic teams that are that have won and will win again. And so I don't know what it will take for people to see it. I don't know if it is more storytelling If it is letting go of the verbiage we use of having the chip on our shoulder. If you let go that verbiage and instead talk about we are a great university today. Today, we are a great university and let's start shouting that and [unclear] with that story. I look at other universities who are these, you know, everybody accepts that they are great universities. You know why, because they talk about it so much. They themselves as an institution, talk about what their greatness is, it often and they say it loudly, they have no problems to the [unclear] one. I say that's what we do. Let's toot our horns about what we do well. (36:37)

Donald Leggett:
I remember, go ahead I didn't mean interrupt you.

Virginia Hardy:
That's okay, go ahead.

Donald Leggett:
But I remember well the statement that that Dr. Leo Jenkins made back when we were trying to attain university status, and he said we are university in fact, so now let's proclaim it so. And so I'm thinking the same when I was going through this, that's first thing that that hit my mind. We are on alpha university in fact, so let's proclaim it and shout it to the highest hill since this is what we are. Let me, Dr. Hardy, combine two, this is a thoughtful here now. So in order to sort of make it all come together, I'm gonna read it as I have it here. And so I won't miss a part up. Is it possible for ECU to be among the best and most respected institutions in the nation and also serve the needs of the region, and of course, that's where we, the point we're trying to is to reach. And given its primary service area includes one of the most impoverished and economically and culturally deprived regions, deprived regions in the state, is an ongoing conflict between ECU's role in terms of economic development of the region and striving for the highest here in academic excellence. I told you it was [unclear] (38:15)

Virginia Hardy:
It really is

Donald Leggett:
In other words, does that conflict between [unclear] academic highest here and [unclear] regions.

Virginia Hardy:
So there's a part of me that wants to say that I don't think that those two things are exclusive. They're mutually [unclear]. I don't think so. I think you can reach the highest, the highest tier of academic excellence. I think you have to decide what, I think we the university will have to decide what's high, what's [unclear], right? Because if you wanted to be a Yale or Harvard, as people like to say, the Harvard on the Tar, the question is, do we need to be the Harvard on the Tar? I don't think we do. But, but can we serve our region well and take care of this region? I think yes, and we can do it from an academic and research perspective and then share that with the world, at least with the country about what it is that we're doing, and how we're taking care of our impoverished region, and helping that region to to to survive and to thrive, and how we're doing as an institution. And that will get us that recognition that people are talking about, right? We don't have to lose that authenticity and lose our identity. We can do both, and still gain the notoriety that we want. (39:48)

Donald Leggett:
Yeah, and I think there's anything that goes through all of this and provides the glue to bring all of these three areas we're talking about together, it's the one thing that we have been so attuned to through all these years and it's been ingrained in us all these years from 1907 till now, and that is to serve. And we have been committed to that since we were founded in 1907 and it is still prominent today. And so I think that kind of just brings us back to that every time we get into the conflicts between what we think we are supposed to be and what we are attempting to do regionally and whatever. My screen has gone blank. Are you still with us? (40:49)

Virginia Hardy:
Yes, I'm still here. I can hear you.

Donald Leggett:
Okay, I can't see you but I can hear you. No you're back. Okay. But anyway, the the to serve thing is I think it's so important to all of this. And I'll make one statement on my own and then I'll go on but [unclear] that I just have to do it. But I've always said from the time that I arrived to the campus that I think that if we do, all of our charges well as we, as they are put in front of us, and we move one step at a time is, as those opportunities and challenges are put in front of us, then eventually we will reach where it is we need to be and want to be and, and aspire to be. And in the meantime, we've done everything else well along the way, that you can't just start up the stairs and skip four stairs and go to the next one. Because we know what happens when you do that. I'm gonna shut up.(41:54)

Virginia Hardy:
Yeah, I think a notion of our motto to serve is is true, that's part of our authenticity, a part of our identity. And so if we stay true to that, we know what we need and to do well. That also helps us in reaching in this plateau, whatever that plateau is that, that that masses want, right? For me, Don, this notion of highest tier, highest tier of academic excellence. We have academic excellence. We have it today. Right? Right now we have academic excellence. This highest tier piece is what is what gets me. Again, we're not going to be Harvard. We do not need to be Harvard. We are East Carolina University. We are good at what we do, actually. And we are good at it and it serves its purpose, it does. And we should never lose sight of that. And we should not allow anybody else to lose sight of that or to think that we're an underdog or we're lesser than, because we do what we do and we do it well for our region and our state and for our students. We should accept other people's definition of who we are. We're defining ourselves and identify and our own identity to tell the world what that is period. (43:23)

Donald Leggett:
And we have an inseparable and unbending commitment to serve and have never, never. moving on Dr. Hardy to the end of our time and looking into a couple of areas here. Another comment that I've heard recently was talking about the schools that we compare ourselves with and whatever. But when you look at the the athletic conference that we are in, and the American Athletic Conference, in that some of the finest schools in the country are in that conference, and we rub shoulders with them constantly and an all the time and that says something also as to what we are and who we are and who we [unclear], you know. (44:16)

Virginia Hardy:
I agree with that. I agree. And while I think athletics is a marker or indicator for, for who we are, its not the only one we got. There are several schools that people will get in [unclear] for academic excellence that don't have winning athletic teams. So I don't so it's not the only indicator to know. But it is, athletics matter. And it particularly matters here at ECU, and it matters a lot to Pirate Nation so I get it. And people understand, our athletic teams will win. We will win, right? These things go in ways and we're on the upward swing of a wave. I truly believe it and give us give us more time we will win. (45:06)

Donald Leggett:
And anything that we are not committed to do it well.

Virginia Hardy:
We are committed to doing everything well. We have committed people here.

Donald Leggett:
We do anything to be the best there is in whatever it is that we do. Um, we talked about the role that athletics plays, and as you said, it's surely an important ingredient in all of this. And as I think some people have mentioned the, the front porch of university that is out there every weekend [unclear] for people to see and to judge us by in some sense. So we can't underestimate the importance of that either. Now, when, and we mentioned this a while ago, and I always come back to this because I've been associated with East Carolina College whatever since 1954. Yeah, that's right. And that's a long, long time. The biggest part of 100 years I reckon. And I'm always, and I think this is good, I'm always waiting for us to arrive. I know I want to get, before I die, I want ECU to be what I've always wanted to see it be. And maybe I'm looking at it. And do you ever know when you arrived? And maybe you should never want to arrive because then you quit striving maybe. (46:57)

Virginia Hardy:
So the question is, do you want to arrive?

Donald Leggett:
Yeah. If so, how do we recognize?

Virginia Hardy:
I think when you when you think that you've arrived, then you stop. Right? I tell people that leadership is not a destination. I mean leadership is, is there is no destination to the right. Its a continuous move, its continuous. And so I think this, this notion of having arrived is a false sense of something, a false sense of comfort, a false sense of identity, a false sense of [unclear]. And so I don't want to have to arrive. This is a journey. This is like a journey and there the destination is far far away. And I'm not quite sure when we ever get to the destination. So lets continue the journey. (47:51)

Donald Leggett:
What is the statement? It's the journey and not the destination. That is the important thing.

Virginia Hardy
Yeah, it is.

Donald Leggett:
Okay, I'm going to give you some relief here. Now I've got I'm sure about worn out through this last hours so that we've been doing this and but give you the opportunity. I know along the way you thought of things, well maybe he'll ask this later on and I can have the opportunity to expound expand on it. So anything that you can think of that at this point that you'd like to, to expand on or to give them some of your insight into, or just want talk about? (48:34)

Virginia Hardy:
Um, so, um. I will say that I think we need start really focusing in reframing East Carolina, and we need to refocus and refrain from the standpoint of the institution after 100 some years is doing what it's what it set out to do. We are meeting our mission is not only to serve, but to produce, to lead, to take care of a region. That as you think about various colleges, in the various academic programs, those problems are meeting and exceeding in so many areas. And so you know, we're there. We are there, we're not going to rest on our laurels, we're going to continue to push that envelope. But but we need we need everybody to come along with us, right? We need the alums, we need all of our alums regardless of what timeframe they were here, what they experienced when they were here. We need all of our alums to come with us and know that while we are living up to our mission in our identity, that we have changed, and we have morphed and we will continue to evolve 100 years from now. But, the foundation is solid. The foundation is solid, the identity is solid, the how we do it, it's going to morph as you continue. But ECU is a solid, quality institution and everybody else needs to start accepting that. And I for one am okay with letting go of the chip on the shoulder. I'm okay with letting go with the underdog identity. I, just one person talking, I'm gonna let it go. (50:42)

Donald Leggett:
We're an alpha dog. What you was saying and I was thinking to that we we hit every one of those steps. We're not trying to jump over anything. And we will do it well and we will have arrived at whether we recognize that or not. So to add to this, I know it's not like you don't have anything else to do today, and so it was I'm sure it was a sacrifice to. (51:14)

Virginia Hardy:
Thank you, thank you for doing this project.

Donald Leggett:
But it's such an accommodation and we just really appreciated and [unclear] you're so good at what you do. And I've just enjoyed listening to you talk because so much I would if I could say is as well, I would have said it the same kinds of things that you will say. (51:36)


Title
Virginia Hardy Oral History Interview
Description
Sound recording of Virginia Hardy's interview for the "The Rise of Alpha Dog" oral history project conducted by Don Leggett. The project explores perceptions of East Carolina as an "underdog" or "alpha dog".
Date
June 24, 2020
Extent
Local Identifier
UA95.18.06
Location of Original
University Archives

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