In 1984, his senior year at IUP, Leland Hardy made a deal with himself. He would try out for the Olympic boxing team, and, if he made it, he would pursue a career as a professional athlete. If not, he would recommit to academics.
Hardy lost his qualifying match. But, he’s quick to point out Mike Tyson lost his, too.
Hardy didn’t give up on sports. Instead, he incorporated athletics into the rest of his schooling and his career, which has spanned roles including sports agent, stockbroker, marketer, translator, and international business advisor. A 1993 recipient of IUP’s Distinguished Alumni Award, he discussed his experiences and dished out career advice during two events in the fall—a campus visit as part of the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology’s Entrepreneur in Residence program and an alumni panel presentation in New York—at which he encouraged students to take advantage of opportunities on campus.
Though Hardy admits he didn’t apply himself at Philadelphia’s Central High School, he came to IUP for “total immersion” in his studies. While earning a bachelor’s degree in Marketing, he participated in two influential IUP offerings.
The first was the Program of Scholars, founded in the early 1970s by faculty member Crawford Johnson. Through the program, which targeted mainly African-Americans, high-achieving students like Hardy served as role models for their more underprepared classmates. They also visited high schools across the state to encourage students to attend college.
Another was the Critical Languages Program, which paired students with native speakers of a foreign language on campus. Hardy studied Japanese and Chinese. He had discovered a knack for learning languages in high school, where he took up French and won a national Spanish competition.
IUP is also where Hardy was introduced to boxing. He took part in a Golden Gloves exhibition on a whim and won his match. After training with Johnny Kostas ’49, who ran the Indiana County Boxing Club, Hardy went on to win the Pennsylvania State Heavyweight Championship, which qualified him for the Olympic trials.