A match made in Parker Hall: How one calculus class equated to a lifetime of love for Russ, Andrea Hardwick
It’s a beautiful, sunny day in the spring of 1997. Campus is abuzz with students driving down the concourse and playing hacky sack near the Eagle’s Nest. Dinner with friends might include Brand X Pizza, Willie’s Wings or Mr. Gatti’s pizza buffet, but you won’t know final plans until you can get back to your dorm and check voicemails on a clunky machine.
Russ Hardwick and Andrea Lockhart were both students at Auburn University that spring. Although they didn’t know each other at the time, fate would have it that Calculus II in Parker Hall Room 364 was listed on both their schedules. Little did they know that this class would not only get them one step closer to graduation, it would also be the foundation of the rest of their lives.
Flash forward 25 years to Jan. 28, 2022. Campus is abuzz with students walking down the concourse, grabbing snacks from local food trucks and enjoying some welcomed winter sunshine outside of the newly constructed academic classroom and laboratory complex, or ACLC, building and The Edge at Central Dining.
For a fun trip down memory lane, Russ and Andrea had a chance to return to Parker Hall on this day and recount their memories from the special place.
“This place still has chalkboards,” recalled Russ, noting his first impressions while entering room 362 of Parker Hall.
This classroom is adjacent to room 364, where Russ and Andrea were in Calculus II together. Room 364 has been converted into office spaces.
“I remember our instructor was Lynn Weathers, and there were about 20 or so people in the class. I sat in the second row in the second seat from the door,” recalled Andrea. “Russ sat in the third row.”
Russ was taking the class as a math education major in the College of Education, and Andrea as a zoology major in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM.
“One of the neat things is that we’re still friends with some of the people who were in that same class,” said Andrea. “Dr. Will King was in the class with us, and his practice, King Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, is located next to my optometry practice, Hardwick Vision Center, in Auburn.”
During the class, the Hardwicks formed a friendship and remember participating in a few study groups in the math annex. After the class ended, Russ played club soccer, and Andrea and her friends were “soccer sweethearts” who came to games to support the teams. Yet, it would be years later after a few chance encounters before they would start dating.
They both went on to graduate from Auburn–Andrea in 2000 and Russ in 2001. After graduation, Andrea took a year off and moved to Colorado while applying for optometry school. In 2001, she started optometry school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, or UAB, while Russ went on to attend graduate school at Auburn University at Montgomery, or AUM.
One evening, Russ met up with a friend in dental school in Birmingham, and they happened to run into Andrea. They recognized each other and struck up a conversation.
“This memory reminds me of one of the things I love about Auburn University,” said Russ. “I always tell my students that the great thing about Auburn is that it’s so big that you can meet new people each day, yet still small enough to make meaningful connections.”
In the spring of 2002, Russ and Andrea began dating, and they made a long-distance relationship work with Andrea living in Birmingham and Russ in Montgomery.
After dating for almost three years, in December 2004, Russ told Andrea one evening that they were going to see a ballet in Atlanta.
“There was no ballet,” they both recalled, laughing while sitting next to each other in the Parker Hall student desks.
Instead, Russ proposed atop the rotating Sun Dial restaurant amid Atlanta’s skyline views.
Andrea would graduate from UAB’s optometry school in 2005, and Russ would graduate from AUM with a master’s in business administration in 2004 and a master’s in education administration in 2005.
The two were married in July 2005, and after living in Montgomery for a year, they moved to Auburn in 2006, where Andrea established her practice, Hardwick Vision Center, in 2007. Russ initially taught math in Smiths Station for two years and later moved over to Opelika City Schools, where he has remained for the past 14 years and currently serves as assistant principal at Opelika High School.
After a 25-year journey that circled back to campus, Russ reflected on why they call Auburn “home.”
“We just love the size of Auburn and its location in proximity to Atlanta,” he said. “We enjoy being so close and attending Auburn events and football games. When I’m here, I’m reminded of my time as a student when it was such a fun time in athletics.
“Our football team played against Peyton Manning in the 1997 SEC Championship game. Chris Porter was on the men’s basketball team from 1999-2000, and the team was great.”
The Hardwicks reminisced about other favorite Auburn memories in great detail.
Even though they didn’t see each other that night, Russ and Andrea both recalled “Toomer’s 2000” as a night to remember–complete with a huge crowd and Times Square-esque ball drop to commemorate Y2K.
Andrea recalled that students had to travel beyond campus to eat at Chick-Fil-A at either the mall or the Kroger at Glenn Avenue and Dean Road.
“I still remember I could order a number one with a Dr. Pepper, and I’d write a check for $4.67,” she said.
Russ remembered his parents bought him a word processor to bring with him to Auburn.
“When a professor cancelled class, he or she would send an email, and we remember thinking, ‘What’s an email?’” he said.
“We also can’t forget to mention parking tickets,” Russ stated, recalling that he somehow obtained an A-zone tag from a convertible, and later, while parked on a one-way street facing the wrong direction, Parking Services figured out that the A-zone tag didn’t quite match his vehicle’s description.
Surrounded by the dusty, black chalkboards of Parker 362, the Hardwicks recalled how significant this building has been in their journey not only through Auburn, but in their relationship with each other.
“It’s where we met. We can trace our entire story back to this place,” said Andrea.
Further reflecting on the importance of Parker Hall, Russ stated, “It’s amazing to think about how many prominent astronauts, fighter pilots and scientists who once attended Auburn all had to have math classes here.”
Andrea echoed Russ’s sentiment, adding she has fond memories of her COSAM experience that involve prominent alumni.
“I remember attending a COSAM leadership event with Andrew ‘Earl’ Hartsfield where I got to meet Andrew’s brother, Henry ‘Hank’ Hartsfield—a NASA astronaut and U.S. Air Force colonel,” she said. “Both brothers have since passed, so it’s a very special memory I have.”
Hartsfield earned a Bachelor of Science in physics from COSAM in 1954 and was later honored as a 2007 COSAM Distinguished Alumnus.
Through the Hardwicks’ story, the memories and connections formed in Parker Hall remain. Because of a chance pairing in a Calculus II class, the foundation of a marriage began, friendships were created and memories were made that will ultimately last much longer than the building in which they were formed.
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