Steven Robert Hardy, a Harford County public school educator whose career spanned more than four decades, died June 13 of cancer at his Bel Air home.
He was 64.
The son of a real estate salesman and a homemaker, Mr. Hardy was born and raised in Havre de Grace.
After graduating from Havre de Grace High School in 1965, he earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1969 from what is now Towson University.
He completed his graduate studies in education administration at Morgan State University and had earned a master's degree from Loyola University Maryland.
Mr. Hardy began his career in 1969 as a teacher at Edgewood Elementary School, and shortly thereafter was promoted to part-time assistant principal.
"I was his teacher and supervised his student teaching. He did a superb job and was the very best student I had in 28 years of teaching," said Dr. David Ellsworth Boyd, who retired from Towson University in 1995.
"He was extraordinarily well-organized and was able to meet the needs of children. He had a feeling for them and could easily relate to them. He was just a good all-around teacher and led by example," said Dr. Boyd.
"As a principal, he was no-nonsense. There was only one way to do things and that was the right way. There were never any short cuts," he said. "The three most important things to him in this order were the kids, teachers and parents."
Dr. Boyd said that before the school year began, Mr. Hardy did a PowerPoint presentation for his faculty and administrators.
"He'd lay out his objectives for the coming year. He was always looking ahead beyond the status quo. He wanted to advance education in creative ways," he said.
In 1980, Mr. Hardy was asked to reopen Bel Air Middle School as a full-time assistant principal in partnership with Matthew Pleviak.
A decade later, he was promoted to principal of Roye Williams Elementary School.
"'You taught us how to fly' was how teachers and students remembered his tenure as principal,'" said his longtime companion and recent wife, the former Tammy Seifert, a Harford County public school psychologist.
Mr. Hardy's final assignment was serving as principal of North Bend Elementary School for 12 years until retiring in 2010.
"Steve was the consummate teacher and leader. He was a brilliant man. Any time we had a meeting, he'd end it by saying, 'So, what did you learn from this?' It was wonderful," said Susan H. Gebhardt, who retired from North Bend last week, where she had been assistant principal.
"He was a master at enrolling all people in his mission. He felt that all children could learn and that each child needed to be invested in to see how they learned, that we had to teach them in such a way that they could access their learning style," said Ms. Gebhardt.
He also stressed and encouraged personal development and leadership skills within his schools to students, faculty and administrators.
Mr. Hardy was also well-known for the hilarious costumes he'd occasionally don to motivate students.
"He had been spotted as a hot fudge sundae, a hot dog, a clown, a duck, a frog and a construction worker," his wife said.
Mr. Hardy was an environmentalist and introduced this element to his school and students.
"A water and environmental enthusiast, Steve was instrumental in North Bend Elementary School being selected as a partner in the pilot phase of the Maryland Bay School Project," his wife said.
"As a Chesapeake Bay Foundation School for three years, he demonstrated a strong commitment to using the environment as a context for learning to improve student achievement," said Ms. Hardy. "North Bend is recognized as a governor's 'Green School' for their environmental practices."
Mr. Hardy was an avid ACC and NCAA basketball tournament fan and was known for his "TV-a-thons," his wife said.
He also liked shooting pool, listening to music, playing his guitar and following the stock market.
"He was also a good handyman and a technological whiz. He'd come down and help me set up my computer or fix it when things went wrong," said Dr. Boyd, who remained close to his former student.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. July 21 at Oak Grove Baptist Church, 2106 Churchville Road.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Hardy is survived by his son, Robert Stafford Hardy of Abingdon; his mother, Geraldine Hardy of Havre de Grace; a stepson, James Webb of Bel Air; a stepdaughter, Samantha Webb of Bel Air; a sister, Sandy Moore of Oregon; and a grandson. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.