Evan Hardy was part of a farming revolution
The University of Saskatchewan became an important institution for agricultural learning on the Canadian Plains when it was founded in 1907. Professor Evan Alan Hardy taught there for over 30 years. Agriculture passed from horsepower to tractor power; a revolution in farming methods.
Today there remain traces in Saskatchewan of Professor Hardy with laboratories named after him, a Hardy Cup for football and the Saskatoon Evan Hardy Collegiate Institute which appropriately has a strong international student programme.
Evan Hardy goes to Ceylon
When Hardy retired from the University he set out for Ceylon to work on dry land agriculture, first for the FAO, then as the Founding Director in 1956 of the Regional Technical Training Institute for South Asia. It was funded by the Colombo Plan and linked to the Gal Oya development project.
The Gal Oya project was the first multi-purpose reservoir project in recent times. Hardy students trained in a live engineering environment with frequent field trips. That is why they believe they did better than anyone else.
Students from Burma, Malaysia, North Borneo, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore studied under Professor Hardy from 1956 until his death in 1963 and then with other professors until the 1970s.
The assets of the Institute included an auditorium, lecture halls, machinery and equipment, laboratories, an agricultural farm demonstration area, hostels for students and a library.
In the beginning there were only 70 students in two years of Engineering as well as Agricultural officers on refresher courses. They studied for 11 months/year, 7am to 8pm, and lived in the residence. They had courses on irrigation, soil science, agriculture, mechanical and electrical engineering, surveying and more. Their “leisure” was supervised, if indeed it can be called leisure with such a strenuous series of sports play.
The Hardy boys went on to further study and professional success abroad in UK, US, Canada and Australia as well as, most importantly, in Sri Lanka. The Gal Oya development project was able to replace foreign engineers very quickly with the Hardians who took over splendidly.
After teaching less than a decade in Ampara, Professor Hardy died at the age of 73 and was cremated at the Institute where his memorial remains.
Hardians remember their Professor well
Many students of Professor Hardy have written about their memories of his teaching approach. Hardy approved of the Masonic quote “rising to eminence by merit, you live respected and die regretted”.
The Secretary of the Students Union, Niro Dahanayake, who worked with him on a daily basis, said Professor Hardy was a man who believed in “on the job” education and had a love for Sri Lanka. His mission was “to educate us not to get something for himself”. The combining of academic discipline with practical application was the goal of making students “rounded people”. Dahanayake cites with approval the fact that Hardy would not allow his daughter to drive a car until she could change the spare tire herself.
Students came from across the country including some of the top schools such as Royal College, Trinity in Kandy, S. Thomas, St. Joseph and others. The students were both Tamil and Sinhala speaking but all spoke English together. Former students describe a vibrant institution “buzzing with first class accommodation, a place kept spotless with diverse, first class teaching staff”.
The Hardy Institute today has weathered many tough decades
When one visits the modestly appointed Evan Hardy Institute today, it is difficult to imagine its heyday. The students and lecturers today come mostly from the Ampara area as well as from Kandy, Galle, Badulla and Ratnapura.
Today there are 371 students: 154 in agriculture, 111 in information technology and 106 in English. This is a substantial increase over previous years when student numbers slumped to less than 100 during the height of the conflict and it was difficult to recruit lecturers.
The Institute’s Director, K. Nawarathna, reflects solemnly on his ten years of teaching and leadership since 2005. He looks forward to introducing new courses in horticulture, aquaculture and construction technology.
The development needs are significant and challenge the ability of the Ministry of Higher Education alone to respond. The list includes school bus repair and renovation of lecture halls, laboratory, elearning centre facilities and staff training.
In May 2010 the Evan Hardy memorial museum was opened on the campus. Looking around at his personal effects left behind one cannot help but feel the energy of those former years and know Professor Hardy would hope for better times ahead.
Ingrid Knutson is the wife of the Canadian High Commissioner. Prior to coming to Sri Lanka she worked for the Canadian International Development Agency and most recently as Head of CIDA in Afghanistan. Her views in this article are her own and do not necessarily represent Canadian government policy.
This article forms part of a series of Sri Lankan Canadian partnership stories. She can be reached at
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