The University Club is a hive of hospitality and networking. Jackson native John Hardy, 50, manages the 32-year-old establishment, which fills the entire 22nd floor of the posh AmSouth Building. The club is one-part ritzy restaurant and one-part entertainment extravaganza—an exclusive hot spot for Jackson's most interesting and influential.
"Everything is personal with me now," Hardy says, reclining behind a desk topped with civic awards. He is overseer of the club and cares intimately for his membership base of nearly 1,000.
"I've been with the University Club since day one, and I've developed an affinity for it over the years," Hardy says, adding that he treats his staff like extended family. 'Take care of the members," he tells his employees. "With members, everything is possible, but without members, nothing is possible."
"My mother was a maid," Hardy says, leaning forward. "She only made it through her sophomore year of college, and her dream was for all her kids to get a college education." She raised Hardy and his two sisters and brother at the corner of Fortification and Lamar by herself. Hardy remembers playing as a child with police dogs that had been let loose to attack civil rights marchers.
After graduating from Central High School, Hardy began work on a business administration degree from Jackson State University. "I wanted to be in a position to make a difference," he says. He thought about a career in law or hospital administration, but it wasn't until he started bussing tables at the grand opening of the University Club in 1975 that he found his true calling in hospitality.
He worked for seven years at the Camelot Club in Baton Rouge, La., and became a certified manager in 1986. Hardy has opened clubs all over the country, but he keeps coming back to Jackson. "Jackson is home," he says "Everywhere I go, I see the same problems. I'm comfortable being a big fish in a little pond."
Hardy is active in the local chapter of 100 Black Men and is the outgoing president of the North Midtown Community Development Center, which provides after-school and housing needs to Jacksonians living in Hardy's old neighborhood.
"I'm giving back to an area I grew up in, and I will remain active because I want to see it do better," he says. His message to young people is straightforward: "Growing up with a single mother was not an excuse for us." All four Hardy children successfully completed college degrees. "You can realize your dreams," he says. "Just stay focused. There will always be crime and drugs, so you have to pull yourself out of that with education and good citizenry."
john is a passionate advocate for downtown. i greatly appreciate his leadership on the convention commission and the tourism and visitors bureau.the food and service at the university club are both superb and i encourage everyone to consider a membership in the club.
John Hardy is truly a Missisippian to be proud of. He knows just how to set the table with kindness and a flar that is always enjoyable. He definitely has an eye for the real business arm of that operation and deserves this kind of recognition.
John Hardy is the main reason that I am a member of the University Club. He is a great ambassador for the club and the city of Jackson. His professionalism mixed with personal care is legendary. Thanks John for all that you do!