Excellence in Teaching Award

Stephen Hardy

Professor of Kinesiology
College of Health and Human Services

Stephen Hardy

"Teaching effectiveness is being able to make a connection and instill a hunger for lifelong learning. Steve excels at that."
—Neil Vroman

Steve Hardy counts himself lucky that, twice now, his students have been there for him during the hardest challenge a parent can face—the death of a child.

When his son, Josh, died of cancer in 1993, and then Nate, a Navy SEAL, was killed in Iraq in 2008, Hardy didn’t do the “safe” thing and hide his feelings from his students. Instead, he opened up to them.

The remarkable support they returned, Hardy says, allowed him to develop a rich, life-affirming bond with them that ultimately made him a better teacher.

“That had a profound effect on my teaching, because I realized how much more you can get out of a class when you see how truly wonderful these students are as individuals, and let them be part of your life,” says Hardy, who’s taught at UNH since 1988.

Helping students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers, Hardy says, means engaging them on a more personal level.

“Teaching effectiveness is being able to make a connection and instill a hunger for lifelong learning. Steve excels at that,” says Neil Vroman, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

So, Hardy memorizes every student’s name (and some of his classes have had upwards of 80 students). He’s made himself Web-savvy, and uses UNH Blackboard extensively. And he keeps the pace lively and interactive—fostering debate between students, asking them to critique each other’s work, and training an eye on anyone trying to duck a question.

“Many students come in here and think, ‘Sports studies? This’ll be easy,’” Hardy says. “But then a few weeks later they’re saying, ‘Uh-oh. This is serious!’”

Hardy co-wrote Sport Marketing, a textbook now in its third edition, printed in six languages, and used in classrooms around the world.

He also helped launch the Charles Holt Archives of American Hockey, at the Dimond Library. A collaboration of faculty, students, and staff, it allows students to dig into primary sources—a process many find transformative.

Hardy and his wife, Donna, a longtime UNH employee, are active in Operation Hat Trick, a program in UNH Athletics, which donates hats to wounded soldiers in memory of Nate Hardy. He also serves as the faculty representative to the NCAA and chairs the President’s Athletics Advisory Council.

—Jim Graham

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