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Services for Wayland exec, killed in plane crash, slated

PLAINVIEW, Texas (BP)–A memorial service for Bill Hardage, executive vice president of Wayland Baptist University who was killed in an airplane crash March 25, will be at 1 p.m. Friday, March 31, at First Baptist Church in Plainview, Texas.

Hardage, 61, had been a staff member of the university for nearly 40 years.

He had traveled to Watsonville, Calif., on a personal trip to pick up an Air Coupe plane he had purchased, according to a university news release. Sometime Saturday, the plane crashed in central California; the accident remains under investigation.

An accomplished pilot licensed for both single- and multi-engine planes, Hardage had spent many years as the university’s pilot along with his administrative duties, often shuttling officials to graduation ceremonies at Wayland’s external campuses or to other locations on Wayland business.

The Associated Press reported that the wreckage of Hardage’s plane was found the morning after the accident in a mountainous area of San Benito County. Hardage had taken off from the Watsonville Municipal Airport around 9 a.m. Saturday, March 25, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. He had flown about 50 miles when the plane crashed. The AP reported that local authorities began searching for the plane after the Civil Air Patrol received a beacon from the plane around 5 p.m.

Hardage first came to Wayland in 1963 to run for WBU’s new track and field program. After earning his degree in 1965, he moved to Lubbock as a high school football and track coach, then to Texas Tech University as assistant track coach and physical education instructor. He earned his master’s degree in education there.

Wayland beckoned him back, 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 the doctorate in education at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M – Commerce). 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 external campuses Wayland operated at the time 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.

From there, Hardage 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. His title changed to executive vice president when the chancellor’s position was eliminated in 2002 with Wallace Davis’ retirement.

Paul Armes, president of Wayland, said in a statement, “Words cannot begin to express Wayland’s grief and my sadness over the loss of our gifted Executive Vice President, Dr. Bill Hardage. Bill loved Wayland and contributed to her success as an institution of higher learning in more ways than any of us will ever know. He will be missed greatly by every member of the Wayland family. I will miss my very good friend and fellow pilot.”

Hardage is survived by his wife Nell; a son, Tim, of Plainview, and a daughter, Cindy Bessire, of Muleshoe, Texas; and 10 grandchildren.

A private graveside service will be held on Friday preceding the memorial service. The family has asked that memorials be made to the Hardage Scholarship Fund, administered by Wayland’s office of advancement.

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