Rev. Joseph (Joe) L. Hardegree was our red-bearded
radical campus minister at Stanford during A3M and several years afterward. He had just arrived on campus in the fall of 1968 and joining in the A3M sit-in was his first official radical act. Among other things, Joe was a member of a worker’s collective and led the boycott of the Stanford Union when they laid off some long-time workers after years of promising secure employment. During the boycott of Tresidder Union after the layoffs, Joe served as a cashier at the Alternative Food Service, noting “Workers on campus have been gathering steam for the past two years.” He was enthusiastic about the success of the Tresidder boycott, noting that the AFS had raised over $1,000 for laid-off workers. In an effort to thwart the AFS, Acting Dean of Students Robert Freelen told Rev. Joe that the Clubhouse, where UCCM was located, could not be used to prepare food for the AFS.
He was closely associated with Miriam Cherry of the Newman Center staff during those years.
Rev. Joe’s activism frustrated the Stanford administration to the point that President Kenneth Pitzer once asked Dean of the Chapel B. Davie Napier to
keep Hardegree under control. Napier noted that Pitzer did
express to me his unhappiness about Joe, and hoped I could do something about it. I told him it wasn't any of my business.
President Richard Lyman spoke to the chairman of his boss, United Campus Christian Ministry (UCCM) Board, about the placement of intern Paul Rupert and Joe on the campus. Paul, a Stanford graduate and pacifist, was tried for refusing induction into the military. Part of his sentence was to stay out of Santa Clara County for five years.
As for Joe, Lyman pressured the United Ministries in Higher Education (UMIHE), the parent organization to UCCM, to remove Joe from the campus. In response, they cut financial support for Joe’s position, despite having four vacancies at other campuses. Joe said,
I’m the first full-time, regular person to be laid off, while four vacancies are being filled at other campuses. This occurred despite an appeal by UCCM to retain Joe and his position, sending a letter that declared Joe to be “an effective and important liaison between the campus ministry and students”.
The Reverend considered himself to be a Marxist-Christian trying to
help Christians be Christian, noting that he did not proselytize non-Christians. He thought his work broke down into three areas:
relating to and contributing to the life of Christians on campus, working with local churches and giving them campus opinions, and doing
whatever my interest is on the scene. In his self-defined call of duty, Rev. Joe showed up at everything from communion services and Sunday school classes, to speeches before local churches about campus problems, and to a Marxist-Christian dialogue group on campus. As part of his ministry to students, he headed a Marxist-Christian dialogue seminar and attended the Sunday Morning Worship Service in Memorial Church's Round Room. Of the Worship Service, he said,
I tend to read as much from Mao as I do from the Bible, but it's still a Christian service.
Of his philosophy,
There's a tension between Marxist and Christian beliefs, but I think it's a creative one. Christianity has been naive about society, has tried to transpose one-to-one personal norms on social situations. Marxism, on the other hand, doesn't deal sufficiently with death, and sometimes reverses the Christian error I mentioned. Rev. Joe reflected,
The difference between solutions to one-to-one and collective oppression is that you have much more variety of choice on the individual level. … But, as Marx notes, history shows that in overthrowing reactionary state power, armed struggle is eventually called for. Those in power will use 'any means necessary', too.
Rev. Joe thought that Maoist China was an interesting experiment. "For Maoist China, I have nothing but the highest regard. It's the most important social experiment in the world today. Maybe my movement friends will excommunicate me for this, but I think even China must be watched, though it does seem to have a dynamic for critical renewal built in. Any society needs more than one source of inspiration or insight, alternate ways of perceiving."
Rev. Joe was briefly a member of Venceremos, but resigned due to philosophical differences, stating afterwards,
I feel uncomfortable not being in a revolutionary organization. Although he felt that Venceremos was still
an effective revolutionary group, he added,
I think they wanted to define too narrowly what 'revolutionary' meant, while the Black Panther Party was broadening into issues other than 'Off the pig.' They made the Panther issue a line of demarcation: either you were against the Panthers or out of Venceremos. I got out of Venceremos, he explained.
Rev. Joe’s last hurrah at Stanford was to perform the marriage ceremony for Katherine Barclay and Tony Russo in Davey Napier’s office, with Dan Ellsberg as the best man. The ceremony was temporarily interrupted by police, who said they had received a ‘credible’ death threat against Ellsberg. Russo was a co-defendant with Ellsberg in the Pentagon Papers trial, and the two of them were planning to speak in MemChu that night. The interruption caused Katherine Barkley to sigh,
There are pigs at my wedding and everything. The police could not convince Ellsberg to cancel his appearance at the lecture engagement (apparently he was the only target, not Russo), and Rev. Joe proceeded with the wedding service for the two. Afterwards, Ellsberg and Russo took the stage in the main chapel, commenting on the assassination threat and on the recent firing of Bruce Franklin.
The Reverend finally was fired in 1971 for his political activism and, with his family, moved back to Denver in January, 1972.
In Denver, Rev. Joe drove a taxicab for 3 years, served as a union steward and helped lead the movement to buy the cab company and run it as a worker’s co-op, an experiment that lasted twenty years before it finally collapsed.
In 1975 Rev. Joe moved with his family back to the Bay Area in order to take graduate work at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley in a joint doctoral program with the University. During that time he became active in a group called “Christians for Socialism” and spent a lot of time lecturing religious folks about Marxism. He never finished his dissertation but did get a job as a result at the University of San Francisco, where he taught philosophy and religion courses as a very busy adjunct instructor from 1978 to 2000. In 1987, out of 450 adjunct instructors, he was named Teacher of the Year. He also led an unsuccessful effort to organize his fellow adjuncts into a branch of the teachers’ union at USF.
In 1982, thanks to Paul Rupert, Rev. Joe got a job working in Redwood City organizing a community mediation program. This job led to his becoming the founding Executive Director of the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center in San Mateo County, at the time and even now a thriving and ground-breaking community effort toward getting conflicts resolved without going to court. In 1997, combining his ethics teaching and mediation experience, he gave an address to the Northern California Mediation Association on The Principles of Mediation and the Future of Ethics. This speech has had a long and busy Internet life, and is available online.
In 1995, Rev. Joe became Executive Director of the suicide prevention hotline in San Mateo County. Of that work, Rev. Joe stated,
I have no problems with people who want to commit suicide but I figured if they called in on the hotline they were asking for help, and I was happy to run an organization that could provide it. When Rev. Joe joined the agency, it was in very bad financial shape, so he arranged a merger with a larger non-profit and merged himself out of a job in 1997.
Soon after that experience, he became the first Executive Director of the Pacific Art League of Palo Alto, an artists’ membership group that offers classes and has galleries in a building just west of the Palo Alto Civic Center, from which he retired in 2002. He and wife Eleanor resided in a retirement complex in San Mateo.
Along the way Rev. Joe played tennis for enjoyment until a few years before his death. One of his playing partners over the years was Dick Roe, one of his old colleagues at the Stanford Campus ministry, as some A3Mers may remember.
Rev. Joe died in 2009, survived by his wife, Eleanor.
Biographical information provided by Joe Hardegree on March 11, 2009, in conjunction with the 2009 A3M Reunion.
Minister Fund Begun, The Stanford Daily, Volume 159A, Issue 3, 29 June 1971. Link
Behind the Scene: Some Thoughts on Paul Rupert, by Joe Hardegree, The Stanford Daily, Volume 157, Issue 39, 20 April 1970. Link
Russo, Barkley Wed: Activists Exchange Vows, by Larry Liebert, The Stanford Daily, Volume 160, Issue 53, 10 Jan 1972. Link
The Principles of Mediation and the Future of Ethics, by Joe Hardegree, Speech at Annual Conference of the Northern California Mediation Association, March 22, 1997. Link
Ministers' Lives Emphasize Activism: Hardegree Helps Workers, The Stanford Daily, Volume 159, 6 May 1971. Link