The University of Saskatchewan immediately became an important agricultural education institution on the Canadian prairies when it was founded in 1907. Professor Evan Alan Hardy led the Departments of Agriculture and Engineering for over 30 years. Agriculture passed from horsepower to tractor power, a radical revolution in farming methods. Former Canadian students such as W.W. Brown, who became a Saskatchewan Cooperative Creamery General Manager, remembered their studies fondly while noting that in return much was expected of them.
Today in Saskatchewan there are laboratories named after Hardy, a Hardy Cup for football and the Saskatoon Evan Hardy Collegiate Institute (which appropriately has a strong international student program).
Professor Hardy goes to Sri Lanka
When Professor Hardy retired from the University he set out for Sri Lanka to work on dry land agriculture, first for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, then in 1956 as the Founding Director of the Regional Technical Training Institute for South Asia. It was funded by the Colombo Plan and linked to the Gal Oya development project.
The Gal Oya project was the first major multi-purpose reservoir project initiated in modern day Sri Lanka. Hardy students trained in a live engineering environment with frequent field trips. That is why they believe they excelled in their later careers.
Students from Burma, Malaysia, North Borneo, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore studied with Professor Hardy and other professors until 1966.
The assets of the Institute included an auditorium, lecture halls, machinery and equipment, laboratories, an agricultural farm demonstration area, hostels for students and a library. The motto was “honesty, training and industry”.
In the beginning there were only 70 students in two years of Engineering as well as Agricultural officers on refresher courses. They studied for 11 months per year in residence and courses included irrigation, soil science, agriculture, mechanical and electrical engineering and surveying. They studied from 7am to 8pm and their leisure was supervised (if indeed such strenuous sports play can be called “leisure”).
Hardian graduates went on to further study and professional success in UK, US, Canada and Australia. In Sri Lanka, the Gal Oya development project was able to replace foreign engineers very quickly with the Hardians who performed splendidly.
After teaching less than a decade in Ampara, Professor Hardy died in 1963 at age 73 and was cremated at the Institute where his memorial remains.
Hardians remember their Professor well
Many Sri Lankan students of Professor Hardy have written about their memories of his teaching approach. D.P.Y. Abeywardhena and Asai Thiyagarajah and the Secretary of the Students Union, Niro Dahanayake, worked with him on a daily basis. All have a view that Professor Hardy was a man of vision for “on the job” education and a love for Sri Lanka.
His mission, says N. Dahanayake, was “to educate us, not to get something for himself”. He approved of the Masonic quote “rising to eminence by merit, you live respected and die regretted”. The combining of academic discipline with practical application was the goal of making students “rounded people”. Dahanayake cites the fact that Hardy would not allow his daughter to drive a car until she could change the tire herself.
In addition to the foreign students, other students came from across the country including from some of the top schools. The students were both Tamil and Sinhala-speaking but spoke English together. Former students describe a vibrant institution “buzzing with first class accommodation, food prepared by caterers, a place kept spotless with diverse, first class teaching staff”.
More than forty years after his death there remains an active Association of Hardians and a Members Directory.
The Hardy Institute has weathered many tough decades
Visiting the modestly-appointed Hardy Institute today it is difficult to imagine its heyday. The students and lecturers are not as diverse and come largely from the Ampara area, with others from Kandy, Galle, Badulla and Ratnapura. After 1966 the government ended foreign student enrolment, restructured and transferred many of the diploma level courses to Moratuwa university due to a shortage of qualified staff.
The Hardy Institute is divided into two institutions, one attached to the Ministry of Youth and Skills Development with over 700 students in civil construction, automobile as well as information technology and English. This is a substantial improvement on previous years when the numbers of students slumped to less than 100 during the height of the conflict and it was difficult to recruit lecturers. The other institution is attached to the Ministry of Higher Education. Together both institutions train a student body in excess of 1000.
The Hardy Advanced Technical Institute Director in 2010, Mr. K. Nawarathna, reflected solemnly on his ten years of teaching and leadership. He looked forward to introducing new courses in horticulture, aquaculture and construction technology as student numbers continue to rise. His colleague, Mr. A.L. Badurdeen, the Director of the Hardy College of Technology, reflected with pride on his two decades of teaching at the Institute from his seat at Professor Hardy’s old desk. He is already well known for his positive role in coordinating the district’s technical education efforts. Both Directors were pleased at the large number of national vocational qualification courses (NVQ) at all levels being offered, including modern automobile, computer and a growing range of construction related technologies. Graduates from Hardy Institutes are well respected by private sector employers. For example, Mr. Theagarajah, CEO of Hatton National Bank speaks enthusiastically of these skilled workers joining the bank.
The development needs are significant and challenge the ability of both Ministries alone to respond. The list includes school bus repair and renovation of lecture halls, laboratory, e-learning centre facilities and staff training.
In May 2010, the Evan Hardy Memorial Museum was opened on campus. The personal effects provide a connection to the energy of those former years and Professor Hardy’s vision.