Known for his giving spirit, Jacob Hardin had a hunger to climb to new heights.
Born in Odessa, Jacob grew up in Boerne with his parents, Jim and Donna Hardin, and younger sister, Melinda Hardin. Before he could walk, Jacob would join his family on hikes in west Texas.
“When he was born, we lived in Alpine, Texas, out in west Texas, and I’d put him on my back and take him hiking in Big Bend,” Jim said. “As he grew up, he liked hiking on trails, especially mountains. Over time, he wanted to start climbing mountains. Eventually, we ended up hiking Mount Elbert, which is one of the highest in the lower 48 [states]. He always had that hunger to keep climbing; he wanted to go to Mount McKinley.”
When Jacob was four, the Hardins took in, and eventually adopted, Melinda. When she first arrived, her speech skills were limited, but Jacob took it upon himself to teach his little sister how to communicate.
“When we first got [Melinda], she couldn’t really talk. As a matter of fact, between ages three to six she was in speech therapy through school. To this day, she says that Jacob is the one who taught her how to speak and would make her practice all the time. He took that on like his personal project, to help his sister talk,” Jim said. “He was always wanting to help people out, with his sister, but just in general he wanted people to be happy. This relationship he had with his sister exhibited his relationship with people in general.”
As he grew, Jacob continued to devote his time to others, and he became involved in the Boy Scouts, meeting lifelong friends and achieving an Eagle Scout rank in high school. As Jacob began to look into colleges, his father said he knew Texas A&M would be a great fit for him.
“I wanted him to go to A&M for a long time. I really liked the values of people there, and I had never known Aggies until I went to law school at [the University of Houston],” Jim said. “The Aggies I met were always extremely nice and well-mannered. I always had a lot of respect for Aggies in general. I thought that was the place for him to go, and he’d fit in well.”
As Jacob transitioned to college as a member of the Class of 2020 and an electronic systems engineering technology major, he joined the Engineering Living Learning Community, or LLC, and attended every meeting and opportunity it presented. His LLC advisor then offered him a position for an on-campus job, which he would continue for several years.
“After his second semester [at A&M], an advisor asked him if he wanted to do volunteer work at the 3D printing lab, and he said sure,” Jim said. “The 3D printing lab he really liked, and they offered him a job. When they moved from the old location to the new one in the Zachry Building — it’s huge now — they gave him a job there. He did that until they closed the campus for [COVID-19].”
After being diagnosed with brain cancer in the fall of 2019, Jacob continued to be involved on campus, showcasing immense perseverance and a drive to follow through with his passions.
“The big thing he had to fight for was perseverance,” Jim said. “He really found his stride. He enjoyed what he was doing every day. After he got diagnosed, he kept going. Everybody encouraged him and supported him in doing that.”
From Jacob’s journey, his family hopes others will realize the importance of overcoming difficult obstacles and forging a unique path for themselves.
“He kept pushing on. He never quit. I would say everyone needs to do that,” Jim said. “You may stumble along, it may be hard to find your way, especially when you don’t know exactly what it is you wanna work on, but you just gotta keep going. You gotta persevere like he did.”
In Jacob’s honor, his family is in the process of creating a memorial scholarship for engineering students.