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David C. Hardesty, Jr.

David C. Hardesty

President Emeritus, West Virginia University Professor of Law Emeritus


  • A.B., West Virginia University (1967)
    — Student Body President
    —16th Rhodes Scholar (1983)
  • B.A. (1969), M.A. (1983), Oxford University, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • J.D., Harvard Law School (1973)


David Hardesty is a retired lawyer and educator who spent his career as an advocate for education and economic development both in his native state of West Virginia and the nation.

Raised in West Virginia, Hardesty attended West Virginia University. He was elected student body president and graduated with an AB degree in 1967. He attended Oxford University (England) on a Rhodes scholarship where he earned a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (1969). He then graduated from Harvard Law School with a JD degree (1973). Hardesty then returned to WV to practice law with the Charleston, West Virginia law firm of Bowles Rice, LLP. He developed a strong interest in administrative law, representing both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

Early in his legal career, Hardesty served as State Tax Commissioner in the cabinet of then Governor John D. Rockefeller, IV. In that capacity, also served as Chair of the Municipal Bond Commissioner, a member of the board of the Economic Development Commission and as Chief Inspector of Public Offices.

During his legal career Hardesty became an active civic leader in West Virginia. He served as a member and chair of the state’s largest community foundation and Chair of the West Virginia Business Roundtable. He also led several public committees related to economic development, taxation and education reform. During the 1980s and 1990s Hardesty served on and led higher education governing boards, including that of his alma mater. He served in both the West Virginia National Guard and U. S. Army reserves from 1969-1975. He was a member of various Rhodes Scholar selection committees for 20 years. He also traveled to several countries on economic development missions designed to attract new businesses to West Virginia.

In 1995 Hardesty was selected to be the 21st President of West Virginia University. Shortly thereafter, he was awarded a tenured position at the WVU College of law. He served as President for over 12 years and taught law for over two decades. WVU is a multi-campus, land grant and research university with a major teaching hospital chaired by the WVU President. United Health System, a multi-location health care system serving the northern half of West Virginia, was launched while Hardesty was President.

At the time of Hardesty’s retirement as President in 2007, WVU enrolled over 34,000 students and maintained several regional campuses. WVU extension offices were maintained in each of WV’s 55 counties. During Hardesty's presidency, WVU initiated over 25 programs designed to make WVU a more “student-centered” institution. One of these was the Mountaineer Parents Club, which was founded and chaired by Susan Hardesty and enrolled 20,000 families in programs designed to involve parents and support students at WVU. These programs led to significant enrollment gains during Hardesty’s tenure as President.

Also at this time, WVU mounted several highly competitive Division I teams and its athletic department operated on a sound financial footing. Hardesty served as a director of the Big East Conference, as a member of several NCAA committees (including one related to the future of Division I football), and as a member of the board of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Hardesty’s teaching, research and service interests over a 20-year teaching career included leadership theory and practice, legislative process and bill drafting, legal ethics, law practice management, trends in the legal profession and lawyers as leaders.

Academic initiatives undertaken while Hardesty was president included creation of forensics and biometrics degrees and a close association with professionals in the forensic investigation area. During this time, Hardesty served as a member of the Higher Education National Security Advisory Council. While Hardesty was President, new libraries, residence halls, laboratories and classrooms were constructed to meet the demands of expanding enrollment.

A strong advocate for youth development programs, Hardesty served on the board and chair of the National 4-H Council. In recent years, he was active in creating a new degree in the college of business targeting future youth development executives for the Scouting, BSA and similar programs He also participated in statewide efforts to combat the opioid epidemic in the Appalachian region.

Hardesty has been awarded several honorary degrees and citations, inducted into The National 4-H Hall of fame, awarded the National Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, and made a member of the West Virginia Business Hall of Fame. In 2009, the Festival of Ideas speaker series at WVU was endowed and named in his honor.

Hardesty and his wife Susan (also a WVU graduate) met during their first year at WVU and married in 1968. Susan was a strong leader when serving as First Lady of WVU (1995-2007) and a major WVU volunteer before and after that period. She was appointed to the board of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges largely in recognition of her ground-breaking work with college parents. When Hardesty was designated President Emeritus by the WVU Board of Governors, Susan was formally awarded the title of “Founder, Mountaineer Parents Club. The Hardestys have two children and three grandchildren.

(Revised August 2019)

Teaching/Administrative Experience

  • President, WVU (1995-2007)
  • Faculty, West Virginia University College of Law (1995-present)
  • Director, West Virginia Law Institute (2009-2011)

Professional Background

  • Lawyer, Bowles Rice, McDavid, Graff & Love (1973-95)
  • Tax Commissioner, West Virginia (1977-80)
  • General Counsel, various West Virginia non-profit groups and private companies

Publications, Research, and Intellectual Contributions (see resume for full list)

  • Law STudents as Future Leaders: Using Neutral Facilitation Techniques to Teach Leadership Skills. WV Law Review on Line(120), 100. (2017)
  • Bill Drafting in West Virginia. WV Law Review on Line(118), 68. (2016)
  • Leading the Public University, Essays, Speeches and Commentary with Susan Hardesty, published for West Virginia University by the WVU Press (2007)
  • Introduction to Bill Drafting in West Virginia, 118 W.Va.L. Rev. Online 68
  • “Changing Campus Culture,” Handbook of Applied Developmental Science, Volume 4.Chapter 2: Hardesty, Jr., David C., Cote, Lawrence S., LeFlore, Larry. Sage (2003)
  • WV State Bar, “Leading lawyers—Lawyers in Leadership Roles—Implications for the Profession,” The West Virginia Lawyer, October-December 2009.
  • Contributor to Focus Magazine (West Virginia Media)
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