Clifford M. Hardin

Clifford M. Hardin

Portrait of Clifford M. Hardin

Chancellorship Dates

July 1, 1954 - January 1, 1968


October 9, 1915 - Knightstown, Indiana


April 4, 2010 - Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Clifford Hardin Nebraska Center for Continuing Education

Clifford Morris Hardin, then Dean of Agriculture at Michigan State University, was named chancellor of the University of Nebraska In 1954 at the age of 38. At the time of his appointment, he was the youngest university president in the country. He joined a university that was poised for greater things, but his ambitions, at first, seemed modest. For his opening address to the faculty, Hardin spoke of making the University of Nebraska the friendliest university in the country.

From that perhaps-inauspicious start, Hardin began to remake the university. Within his first month as chancellor, he had begun the process of applying to the Michigan-based Kellogg Foundation for a national extension center. Despite considerable local inertia, if not direct opposition, Hardin secured the Kellogg funds and led the effort to raise local matching resources. The Nebraska Center for Continuing Education was dedicated in 1961 and the building at 33rd and Holdrege Streets is named for Hardin today.

Nebraska, a national power in the early days of college football, had fallen off the map. Hardin entered an institution on an upward trajectory that was saddled with a marquee athletic program that was only muddling through.

During his time at Michigan State, Hardin had become acquainted with Duffy Daugherty, the Spartans' coach. Looking for a new coach at Nebraska, Hardin's first instinct was to see if Daugherty was interested in the job. An institution in East Lansing, Daugherty declined, but he pointed west to Wyoming, where a former Spartan assistant was leading the Cowboys' team – Bob Devaney. Hardin pursued him as a coach and won him over. Over the next 35 years, Devaney and his protege Tom Osborne built a program seldom equaled in athletics. For Hardin, it wasn't really about football. When interviewed in the New York Times in 1983, Hardin said, "I felt the state needed something to rally around. If we could pull this off, it could be the difference. I think, in retrospect, it probably helped us get more money to build the university."

Hardin’s tenure as Nebraska chancellor would end rather abruptly, as in 1968 he was tapped as Secretary of Agriculture in the incoming Nixon Administration.

Hardin's legacies at Nebraska are far-reaching and started with a sizable increase in the size of the university and in its stature. According to an obituary in the Washington Post, 13 administrators who worked under him at Nebraska went on to lead universities themselves. And two who assisted him while he was Secretary of Agriculture in the Nixon Administration went on to themselves serve as United States Secretary of Agriculture.

Have something to add, or a correction to this bio? Use the suggestion box.