Collection of records related to Southern Methodist University president Paul Hardin
A Guide to the Collection
Dr. Paul Hardin III became the sixth—and at 41, the youngest—president of Southern Methodist University, in 1972 upon his election by the Board of Trustees, and was formally inaugurated in November of that year. He was known for his youth and vigor, and enjoyed a very positive reputation as a scholar and university administrator prior to his arrival at SMU. Dr. Hardin’s tenure as president, however, was unexpectedly brief: due to deep disputes with the Board, he resigned in June 1974.
Paul Hardin III was born in Charlotte, North Carolina on June 11, 1931. He and his family were active Methodists. His father, Paul Hardin Jr., was elected a bishop in the United Methodist Church. The future president of SMU attended Duke University, majoring in English and holding membership in Phi Beta Kappa; he graduated with an A.B. in 1952. He attended law school at Duke, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Duke Law Journal, and graduated first in his class in 1954.
Hardin married Barbara Russell, also a graduate of Duke, in 1954. They had three children: Paul Russell (Russ), Sandra, and Dorothy (Dottie).
Following law school, Hardin served for two years in the United States Army Counter Intelligence Corps. He briefly practiced law in Birmingham, Alabama for two years after his military service. In 1958, he returned to his alma mater as a member of the Duke Law School faculty as an assistant professor. Dr. Hardin taught at Duke until 1968, and also worked as a visiting professor at the University of Texas (summer 1960), and the University of Pennsylvania (1962-1963).
In September 1968, Hardin was elected as the eighth president of Wofford College, a Methodist-affiliated liberal arts college in Spartanburg, South Carolina. During his time as president of Wofford, he was elected a member of the Board of Trustees at Duke. He also served as president of the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church, as director of the Southern University Conference, chairman of the South Carolina State Tuition Grants Committee, and as a member of the South Carolina Government Reorganization Commission. He was also a member of the Durham, North Carolina Rotary Club during his years as a professor at Duke, and later worked as Director of the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce.
Hardin coauthored two books, Cases and Materials on the Administration of Criminal Justice, and Evidence: Cases and Materials, and published articles in the Pennsylvania Law Review, Yale Law Journal, and the Duke Bar Journal.
At SMU in Dallas, the Board of Trustees had established a special committee charged with selecting a new president following the 1971 announcement by President Willis M. Tate of his retirement. SMU had recently modified its method of executive governance; in past years, the university president had been responsible for all executive and administrative duties. By the early 1970s, however, the university thought that the job of president was becoming too large for one person to effectively handle.
The Board of Trustees thus divided up the responsibilities that had previously been handled solely by the president: the president would thereafter be responsible for all day-to-day administrative decisions, and would function as the chief operations officer for the university. The position of university chancellor was established, and that officer would work as a sort of public-relations official for SMU, and would be in charge of fundraising.
Dr. Tate assumed the position of chancellor, but a new president for SMU would have to be chosen. The special committee set up by the Board reviewed a total of 172 candidates for president over a four-month period. After meeting with Dr. Hardin, the committee unanimously nominated him for the position in March 1972. He was officially elected by the Board on April 10, 1972.
Dr. Tate, who had served in the dual roles of president and chancellor since November 1971, ended his tenure as SMU president when Dr. Hardin took office on July 1, 1972. In a letter released to the general faculty following the Board’s election of Hardin, outgoing President Tate said, "He is the Search Committee’s first and only choice. Words are inadequate for me to express my joy in finding someone so ably qualified to lead SMU. Paul Hardin, III is a first class educator, an able administrator, and a fine churchman."
President Hardin was formally inaugurated as the sixth president of SMU in November 1972. SMU had not held an inauguration since 1955, and the new president wanted his to be as simple and cost-effective as possible. The event took place on November 16, 1972 in Moody Coliseum. Members of the Board of Trustees, faculty, and student body—as well as representatives from colleges and universities from across the country—were in attendance, as President Hardin was presented with the symbols of his office: the Bible, the university mace, keys, seal, and the presidential medallion.
Hardin described his job as president as a "seven-day-a-week job," but remained interested in teaching; during his tenure at SMU, he maintained faculty rank as a professor of law, and even found time to teach a course on torts to first-year law students for the fall 1973 semester.
Hardin served an unexpectedly abbreviated presidency. He encountered problems with the Board of Trustees, including two prominent controversies in the early months of 1974 that deepened the divisions and led to his departure after only two years as president.
Problems with the SMU football team had led Hardin to consult with Southwest Conference officials about violations committed in the program—the most disturbing of which was the illegal practice of making pay-offs to players (in a precursor of what was to come in the late 1980s). The Conference elected to place the football team on a one-year probation. Some trustees apparently thought that Hardin had handled the issue poorly in not bringing it before the Board first; Chancellor Tate was upset upon learning of the President’s supposedly indiscreet manner of handling the problem.
Not long after the football incident, another controversy further undermined Hardin’s standing with trustees. The SMU Law School had been affiliated with the Southwestern Legal Foundation, which maintained a presence on campus. In a dispute between the law school and the foundation, Hardin took the side of the former; the result was the departure of the foundation from SMU.
These two controversies, and the growing estrangement of Hardin from the trustees, undermined his ability to lead. SMU as a whole was dealing with a more difficult economic climate. With the rising price of oil and a weakening economy, SMU was confronted with rising tuition costs, decreasing freshmen enrollment, and the need to make budget cuts in academics.
Hardin’s sudden departure ignited debate over the exact reasons for it, and criticism from the faculty that the trustees had not handled the affair very well. In its July 19, 1974 issue, the Texas Methodist reported that the chairmen of the SMU Board of Governors and Board of Trustees met with Hardin, told him that both groups had lost confidence in him, and requested his resignation. The overwhelming opinion by the governors and trustees seemed to be in favor of his departure. He thus submitted his resignation, and a majority of the trustees voted to accept it. But according to a report sent to the Faculty Senate, several members of the Board withdrew their acceptance of his resignation after learning that his action had not been strictly his own decision, but that he had in fact been asked to resign.
The report further noted that the faculty and members of SMU’s administration had been left out of both the decision to ask for Hardin’s resignation and the decision to accept it. The Texas Methodist, in the same article, questioned,
How could [SMU] suddenly have its President ousted without proper cause being shown for such drastic action? And how could a President who was unanimously elected two years previously by the Board of Trustees—upon the recommendation of a Search Committee made up of representatives from the Trustees, faculty, administration and student body—and re-elected by acclamation less than six weeks previously by the Board of Trustees, be deposed without a subsequent meeting of the Trustees?
Likewise, the faculty as a whole was not happy at how the matter of resignation was handled. In a letter sent to Chancellor Tate, several members of the faculty called the actions of the Board "improper and ill-timed," lamenting the unnecessary damage to the reputation of SMU that had resulted, and noted their "deep sense of dismay and indignation at what has been done."
The request for his resignation surprised Hardin. In a report to the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, sent two weeks after his departure, Hardin stated, "I do not know why I was asked to resign…I was told only that I had lost the confidence of the Board of Governors…I was told the problems were external. No further explanation was made." And although Hardin later heard that the two boards asking for his resignation were not as solidly supportive of such a move as he may initially have thought, he decided not to try to rescind his resignation. He chose not to cite any particular reasons behind his actions in his announcement.
President Hardin officially resigned on June 30, 1974. Chancellor Tate resumed the duties of the office until a new president could be chosen. The Board of Trustees established a special committee to find a replacement that fall. Efforts to nominate a new president initially failed, as the committee’s only remaining candidate for the job withdrew his name from consideration. The Board thereupon designated Tate as president. The university began its search again for a full-time replacement for Hardin, this time concluding with the unanimous selection of Dr. James H. Zumberge, chancellor of the University of Nebraska, in September 1975. Dr. Zumberge took office the following month.
In the years after his resignation, Dr. Hardin served as president of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey from 1975-1988, and returned to North Carolina in 1988 as chancellor of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He worked briefly as interim president of the University of Alabama, Birmingham in 1997, and has held the title of chancellor emeritus at Chapel Hill since 1995.
Collection of records related to Southern Methodist University president Paul Hardin
These papers are not the official records from SMU President Paul Hardin's term in office. They are records and papers collected by others in the SMU community about his presidency and the controversial circumstances that surrounded his term in office. The SMU Archives does not have his official presidential office records.
Series 1 contains records from the search committee established in 1971 to choose a successor to President Willis Tate. These include correspondence, minutes and agendas from meetings that related to the selection process, two binders with resumes and personal information on candidates for the position, and press releases announcing the election of Dr. Hardin. Most of the papers in this series are from the files of Dr. Alan R. Bromberg of the SMU Law School, who served as a faculty member on the search committee.
Series 2 contains papers that mostly relate to the inauguration of Dr. Hardin. Although Hardin assumed his duties in July 1972, the formal inauguration was not held until November 16, 1972. The material in this series consists of records from the planning and organization of the ceremony; programs, tickets, and invitations to the event; and certificates of congratulation sent to Dr. Hardin from other colleges and universities. One folder holds papers from his time as president.
Series 3 includes statements, university press releases, news clippings, and papers from the Board of Trustees on the resignation of Dr. Hardin (announced on June 19, 1974), reaction from the university faculty, and efforts undertaken by the Board to choose a successor and to prevent similar events from happening again.
Access to Collection:
Collection is open for research use.
Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.
Collection of records related to Southern Methodist University president Paul Hardin, Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
Finding Aid Written by Paul H. Santa Cruz, 2008.
Lara Corazalla, 2009.
Detailed Description of the Collection