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Investing in the Lives of ODU Students

Rebecca and Steve Hardt with their dogs

Rebecca and Steve Hardt, with their chows, are ensuring their support for ODU student-athletes continues even after their lifetimes.

Steve Hardt has always been good with numbers. In fact, when growing up in Portsmouth, he excelled in math—perhaps because his mother was a teacher and taught him to work hard and study even harder.

Following high school, Steve thought about the traditional career path that a math major might take such as engineering, accounting and business. But Steve wanted something different—something new and exciting! So, he enrolled in ODU's computer sciences program. Like many freshmen, Steve found his first semester tough as he learned to study college-level material and adjusted to a new, more independent life.

Surprisingly, Steve found his niche in his sophomore year in the management information systems program. Most of his social life centered around intramural sports with his friends. At the time, ODU didn't have a football program. The group competed in almost every category of sport on campus and became great rivals with some of the fraternity teams.

After graduation, Steve landed a job as a computer contractor for the federal government in Hampton Roads. Rebecca had already secured a job there, and they formed an instant friendship. Rebecca also worked part time at Leggett's Department Store, and as their friendship blossomed, Steve would often visit her there in the evenings. Although Steve doesn't remember exactly how much he purchased from the store, he did qualify for the preferred shopper card.

Almost two years after they met, Steve proposed on Valentine's Day in 1990. They got married, bought a house and started a new life together.

Tailgate setup

Having never missed a home game, the Hardts, and their chows, created a legacy of strong fan support now commonly seen on game days.

About that same time, ODU was launching a Young Alumni Club. Steve got involved and supported the University by participating in golf tournaments, socials and fundraisers. The Oyster Bowl had been a special part of Steve's time at ODU, and he couldn't pass up a chance to relive his college days by tailgating with his new bride and the newly formed Young Alumni Club.

Starting a New Tradition

Tailgating would come to play an important role in the Hardts' lives. In 2007, when Steve and Rebecca learned that ODU was adding a football program, they formed a plan that included season tickets, tailgating and cheering for Steve's alma mater. As two of the early supporters of ODU football, the Hardts helped create the strong fan support now commonly seen on game days.

The Hardts' tailgate area is surrounded by what has become a close-knit family. They even carved a large heart on the curb of their first tailgate space to stake their claim under a shade tree located in the White Lot. This is also where many of the football players' parents also parked. Through the years, the Hardts have formed lasting relationships with many of those parents, and their sons, deepening their commitment to the new football program.

Steve and Rebecca realized the importance of their early support to the new program. They have never missed a home game and often travel to away games to support the team with their ODU spirit.

On most occasions the Hardts also took with them their other passion: their pets. More specifically, AJ, their chow chow. Steve and Rebecca have always loved animals and have had chows for many years. Their friends fondly remember AJ, who went with them to most away games, and looked like a lion cub. Mason and Madeline represent the Hardts' latest generation of chows and will soon make their appearance at ODU games.

AJ, the dog

AJ attended with the Hardts for many years.

Making a Gift For the Future

Supporting ODU athletics means more to Steve and Rebecca than just cheering for the team. Giving back is something they learned from their parents and their faith. So, many years ago, they named ODU as a beneficiary in their wills. However, after making this decision, it never occurred to them to notify anyone at ODU until they heard about ODU's new Monarch Legacy Society, an ODAF group honoring those who have included ODU athletics in their estate plans.

In talking to some of their tailgate friends, the Hardts learned that they, too, had made similar gifts and had included ODU athletics in their estate plans. The Hardts began to understand the importance of notifying the University about their intentions and reached out to the ODAF team. Then they spoke with a member of the Planned Giving staff, and they were excited to learn that their bequest could endow a scholarship to assist future student-athletes.

"Now that we've formalized our plans, we're confident in knowing that ODU will be able to carry out our wishes. We embrace the belief of sharing our time, talents and treasures with others. As supporters of ODU athletics, we want to make an investment into the lives of ODU student-athletes, so they can excel in the classroom as well as in their sports."

The next time you see two chows dressed in ODU gear leading an outgoing, happy couple—also wearing ODU colors—introduce yourselves, you've just met the Hardt family.

Create an ODU Legacy

To learn more about making a gift to support ODU in your future plans, like the Hardts have, contact Barbara M. Henley, CFRE at 757-683-6563 or or Brett A. Smiley, CFRE at 757-683-4735 or

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