LAFF Society


Professor Lowell Hardin, 91, Caps Dedicated Career with Continued Presence


By Kaye Maloney

Features Editor, Purdue Exponent Publication Date: 12/01/2008
Lowell Hardin, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, talks about his life long history with Purdue University. Ninety-one year old Hardin still works with the International Agriculture program at Purdue.
Even though he's 91, Lowell Hardin goes to his office at Purdue a few days a week to keep in touch with colleagues and answer e-mails. Tuesdays through Fridays, Hardin, professor emeritus of agriculture, lives in Lafayette with his wife, but on the weekends they go to their house on Lake Freeman in Monticello, Ind. They return Mondays so Hardin can work in his office in the Agriculture Administration Building, dressed in his plaid suit jacket and tie.
Hardin graduated in 1939 in the midst of the Great Depression, when Purdue managed to construct Elliott Hall of Music despite economic hardship. Since he joined Purdue's staff in 1943, he's been a mentor to many students and faculty. He taught farm management until 1953, when he held the position of department chair of Agriculture Economics until 1965. He then worked in international agriculture development. "The exciting thing in my career was being a teacher," he said. "I believe in teaching and I believe in the importance of teaching and interacting with students. That, more than administrative work, was a joy. I got along with administrative work, but I really enjoyed teaching."
The University honored Hardin for his teaching by placing a plaque in Purdue Memorial Union with his name on it. "I was humbled by being named one of the great or good teachers, or whatever they call it," he said. "When they first came out and named those, somehow my name got on there, too."
Besides being known as a distinguished teacher, Hardin is known as a mentor in the agriculture department. "I admire his ability to be truthful and diplomatic," said James Lowenberg-DeBoer, associate dean in International Programs. After taking a job at Purdue in the mid '80s, Lowenberg-DeBoer has been asking Hardin for advice even though he is technically Hardin's boss. To show Hardin its appreciation for his guidance, Purdue held a symposium for his 90th birthday last year.
Because Hardin shows no signs of slowing down, Lowenberg-DeBoer said he will have to start planning Hardin's 100th birthday soon. "We'd have to out-do ourselves," he said. "We'd have to do something."
In addition to having an impact on many students and faculty who have been a part of the College of Agriculture, Hardin has made his presence known internationally. In 1965, he decided to take on a one-year project for the Ford Foundation as an agriculture developer. However, two-thirds of the way through, Hardin and his wife decided he should stay with the foundation. Hardin resigned from Purdue to work with developing countries and their economies for 16 years, spending time at the main office in New York and in various countries. Upon returning to Purdue in 1981, Hardin watched the opportunities for students to study abroad expand. And according to him, it's important for the University to be involved in the world. "We are a world economy, not a U.S. economy. We are a world society, not just a U.S. society," he said. "If we are to be a part of a global society, we have to understand and appreciate the differences in cultures and the way the economies work."


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