Jacksonville State University professor Ben Hardy wants students to succeed and recently set aside some of his own money to help make that happen.
The 72-year-old business law professor endowed a scholarship fund of more than $25,000 for university business students after 12 years of donating his own money to the goal. Every year in perpetuity, selected business students will receive between $500 and $1,000 to help with college expenses.
“To me, the number one thing of importance is to help students get through school, while the idea with this scholarship is to try to help needy kids especially,” Hardy said. “JSU is a school that has a lot of first-generation students that don’t have college in their background.”
Hardy, who has taught at JSU for 17 years, said he used a program the university offers that lets faculty and staff commit parts of their regular paychecks to scholarships. The scholarship is named after Hardy and his wife, Linda.
Reaching $25,000 was the threshold to create an endowment. The fund can now generate enough money from interest to provide scholarships to students in perpetuity. A committee will choose who gets the scholarship money each year from a list of students who apply.
Charles Lewis, vice president for university advancement and executive director of the JSU Foundation, said the university currently has 24 scholarships funded by faculty and staff. About half of those scholarships are endowed, Lewis said.
Lewis said the faculty-funded scholarship program has only been around since the late 1990s.
“It is a wonderful way not only to help students but is a wonderful way to leave a legacy,” Lewis said.
Hardy said he was never sure he’d reach the $25,000 endowment threshold. Over the years, smaller, $500 scholarships were given to students from the fund, requiring Hardy to put even more money back into it until it finally hit that $25,000 barrier.
“I didn’t know if I’d live long enough,” Hardy said with a laugh. “But it was always something in the back of my mind, to find a way to get that money.”
Hardy added that he’s still not done with the scholarship.
“As long as I work, I’ll continue to put money in it and put more in it after I retire,” he said.