Sculpture to honor founder of successful minority program at URI

KINGSTON, R.I. — November 19, 1999 — The Rev. Arthur L. Hardge, a noted civil rights leader, never lived to see the growth and strength of the Special Programs for Talent Development at the University of Rhode Island. With his friend Leo DiMaio, Hardge founded the recruitment and retention program for students of color and disadvantaged persons 31 years ago. Hardge died of heart disease at 56 in 1983. To acknowledge his legacy, the University has commissioned Arnold Prince of Chaplin, Conn. to create a larger-than-life memorial bust of Hardge with a pedestal. The sculpture will pay tribute to the 1960s Freedom Rider who was an early colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King. URI President Robert L. Carothers is heading the $20,000 private fund-raising effort for the sculpture and has donated $1,000 to the fund. The bronze sculpture will be placed in front of the opening arch of URI’s Multicultural Center, which is located in the heart of Kingston campus. Its location will make it possible for the much of campus community to view the bust on a daily basis. Hardge served in Zion churches in New York, Oklahoma, Connecticut and Rhode Island. During the 1960s, Hardge’s faith and activism took him into the forefront of the Civil Rights struggle. He was arrested for civil disobedience several times along with other religious leaders, including King. Hardge, particularly active in the efforts to integrate the Tallahassee Municipal Airport, was arrested and convicted in the Tallahassee Freedom Ride and sentenced to 60 days on a Florida chain gang. After 10 days, a judge reversed the sentence and Hardge was released. In later years, Hardge would recount the Freedom Rides as a time when faith overcame fear. In 1963, Hardge was named pastor of Hood Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in Rhode Island, where his civil rights activism continued to intensify. He served as the first chairman of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE.) Applying the principles of non-violent civil disobedience, Hardge led a successful movement to prod the General Assembly and the governor to pass the Rhode Island Fair Housing Law. Hardge served as the executive secretary of the Rhode Island Commission Against Discrimination and became the first African-American gubernatorial cabinet appointment when the then Gov. John H. Chafee named him director of the Rhode Island Department of Community Affairs. In the wake of Dr. King’s assassination, Hardge became the first African – American administrator at URI, advocating for justice through education. Working with his close friend Leo DiMaio, Hardge fostered growth in the Talent Development Program and left a legacy of successful graduates. The program that began with 13 students now enrolls 600 and has alumni serving in every profession, including medicine, law, business, higher education, and accounting. Hardge was also a founding member of Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) of Rhode Island. Becoming chairman of OIC in 1967, he guided the organization from its storefront existence in South Providence to a multifaceted job-training and human resource center that provides services to thousands of people of color and other disadvantaged persons. At OIC Hardge met Sculptor Prince who was an artist for the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society which had offices in the building. The two became friends. When the idea of a sculpture was proposed, URI art professor Robert Dilworth suggested it would be fitting if Prince created the Hardge sculpture. Prince was educated in the British West Indies and the Art Students League of New York. He has taught sculpture since 1964. From 1972 to 1980, the artist was an assistant professor of sculpture in the Fine Arts Department of the Rhode Island School of Design. His work is represented in more than 100 private collections. Prince has been a member of the Sculptors Guild of New York since 1969 and a member of its board of directors since 1997. The Hardge family has more than one connection with the University. A son, Marc Hardge, is currently employed by URI’s Multicultural Center and the Department of Housing and Residential Life on the URI Kingston campus. A leader of a group of black males calling themselves Brothers United in Action in 1998, the younger Hardge helped advocate for social justice and the end of racism on campus last year. Another son Jonathan D. Hardge graduated in 1994. A sister, Bethany Elizabeth-Ann Champlain Hardge, attends URI. Marc credits URI President Carothers with coming up with the idea for the sculpture. “I am touched that Dr. Carothers wants to honor my father in such a profound way. He is to be applauded for this sensitivity and insight.” The unveiling of the sculpture is expected to be held in the late spring. Contributions for the memorial work of art can be made to the URI Foundation with a notation that the gift is given for this purpose and sent to 21 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 02881-0810. -xxx- For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116