Wayland Baptist University is mourning the loss of their Executive Vice President after a tragic discovery in Central California Sunday morning.
An employee of the university for nearly 40 years, Dr. Bill Hardage was killed sometime Saturday in a plane crash.
Hardage traveled to Watsonville, California to pick up a recently purchased Air Coupe plane. He left a Watsonville airport at 9am (PST) Saturday and was expected back in Plainview Saturday night, but he did not return.
An air search was launched Saturday evening, and the plane was found around 9:45 (PST) Sunday about 50 miles southeast of Watsonville in San Benito County. The sheriff's office there says the crash sight is in treacherous terrain, and added that the weather around the time of take off was overcast with 40 mile per hour winds. The FAA and NTSB will go down to the scene Monday to begin their investigation. An autopsy will also be conducted Monday.
Now friends, family, and the university are remembering a man they say made a huge impact on so many lives.
Hardage first came to Wayland in 1963, transferring from Hardin-Simmons College to run for Wayland's new track and field program. After earning his degree in 1965, he moved to Lubbock to coach football and track at Coronado High School, then to Texas Tech University as assistant track coach and physical education instructor in 1966. He earned his master's degree in education there.
Wayland beckoned him back in the early 1970s, and Hardage returned as assistant track and field coach and assistant professor of physical education, serving for five years before taking a two-year break to earn a doctorate in education at East Texas State University. He returned to WBU to chair the physical education department and to coach track before moving eventually into administrative roles.
In 1979, he became director of special services, taking the reins of the four existing external campuses and helping to start another. Since then, he has been instrumental in expanding Wayland's reach through adding eight additional external campuses in the United States and another location in Kenya, Africa. His vision and love for those campuses was evident as he oversaw the programs and nurtured them to success.
From there, he would serve in the academic vice president's office, the advancement vice presidency, external programs leadership and back to academic and student services and provost. In 2001, he was named vice chancellor, and his title changed to executive vice president when the chancellor's position was eliminated in 2002.
Hardage is a licensed instrument pilot on both single and multi-engine airplanes. He spent many years as the university's pilot.
Hardage leaves behind a wife, two children, and numerous grandchildren.
He was 63-years-old.
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