“You know, in life, if you’re mentally and physically fairly sound, one of the greatest attributes is curiosity. You want to ask questions.”
Those were the words of Joseph A. Hardy III at West Virginia University on Dec. 4 for the College of Business and Economics as part of the B&E Distinguished Speaker Series. Hardy, whose entrepreneurial desire took him from selling home-grown vegetables door-to-door as a college student to founding 84 Lumber Company and the renowned Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, delivered his fiery, entertaining and emphatic message to hundreds of students in the Mountainlair Ballrooms.
“If I made it, I’m sure any one of you students could make it,” said Hardy, who will soon celebrate his 90th birthday. “There are more advantages today than ever. I’d love to trade places with you all at your age, because I’m sure the opportunities are fantastic.”
Hardy was joined at the event by his daughter, Maggie Hardy Magerko, who serves as president and owner of Nemacolin, 84 Lumber, Woodlands World and the Hardy Family Art Collection.
The B&E Distinguished Speaker Series is presented in part by Wells Fargo, and has made possible speakers such as Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers, Charleston area businessman Henry Harmon, entrepreneur and philanthropist Verl Purdy and Hardy. The series is designed to provide successful people from the business arena to students and the University community.
“Mr. Hardy is a business icon, a highly successful businessman who has shown what can happen with determination, opportunity and business sense,” said Dr. Jose Sartarelli, Milan Puskar Dean, WVU College of Business and Economics. “His messages really resonated with students and I think they took a lot away from the event.”
Hardy’s participation in the B&E Distinguished Speaker Series was important not only from a business perspective, but also from a hospitality perspective. B&E’s Hospitality Management program, housed within the Department of Management, is expected to evolve from its current area of emphasis to a full major within the next 18 months. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is designated as a Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond property.
“Anything I got into, I was really into it,” Hardy explained to students, faculty and University representatives. “Focus, focus. If any of you gets really into something, you’ll do well. Anybody in hospitality should have a great future, no kidding.”
After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with an engineering degree, Hardy joined the family’s Hardy & Hayes jewelry company. At age 31, he left Hardy & Hayes, looked into the building materials supply business and opened Green Hills Lumber. A few years later, Hardy pooled his resources with his two younger brothers and a friend to purchase a tract of land in Eighty Four, Pa. There, in 1956, he opened a “cash and carry” lumber yard focused on professional home builders in the tri-state region of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Hardy liked the sound of the name of the rural Washington County town and decided to name his new business 84 Lumber Company.
In addition to 84 Lumber Company, he founded Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, one of North America’s premier resort destinations. The resort features three hotels, including theAAA five diamond Falling Rock boutique hotel and clubhouse, the Forbes Travel Guide Five Star-AAA Five Diamond Lautrec restaurant, the internationally acclaimed Woodlands Spa, 36 holes of golf on the Links Course and the Pete Dye designed Mystic Rock, a sporting clays shooting academy, equestrian center, Jeep® off-road driving course and 14 additional on-site restaurants and lounges among a multitude of amenities.
A full-time resident of Fayette County, Hardy’s business experience and desire to help Fayette County create a better business and economic base to create more jobs and a better tax base prompted him to run for Fayette County commissioner in 2003. He was elected and served his term as vice chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Fayette County from 2004-07.
In response to student questions, Hardy emphasized working hard and liking the life you build for yourself.
“In life, you have to enjoy things with somebody else. You really do. Discover something, then take someone else with you,” he said. “And it was not how hard I worked. It was how hard I enjoyed.”