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Alumna Reflects on Lessons Learned at Otterbein

By Hannah Gorman ’15, public relations major

Otterbein often teaches students lessons they keep with them for the rest of their lives.
Sometimes these lessons come in the form of academic pursuits. Sometimes they come from a sense of collective pride and service. And sometimes they come from friendships and losses.

For Liz Hardy ’07, all of these came together equally to shape her future. As an avid equestrian rider, Hardy came to Otterbein as an Equine Pre-Veterinary major. She eventually found English as her major yet stayed passionate about horseback riding throughout college. At the same time, Hardy discovered her passion for community service through her sorority, Sigma Alpha Tau.

“I never thought I would be a part of a group like a sorority,” Hardy says. “I always did my own thing and spent time with my horse. I would have never considered myself a sorority girl.”

Through a friend, Hardy eventually chose to be a part of Sigma Alpha Tau, known as Owls on campus. In her junior year, tragedy struck. Hardy’s sorority sister and best friend, Caitlin Leasure, was killed by a drunk driver during spring break. Hardy says that if she wasn’t in a sorority Leasure’s death would have been a lot more difficult to handle.

The sorority began to work with organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Hardy says that she and her sorority members “had a chance to get a message out to the community. Looking back on it, this was more than just a drunk driving incident. It was about loss and what happens in life. This was an awful experience but so many people turned it into something positive.”

Hardy credits her sorority responsibilities for helping her to gain public speaking confidence. “I held a few offices in the sorority and that was my first experience in public speaking. I never thought I would have a job involving public speaking, but I do now since I am a public defender,” Hardy says. “I attribute a lot of my success in my job to being in a sorority and having the opportunity to develop my voice.”

Ironically Hardy now has to defend people accused of DUIs, similar to the man who struck down her best friend.

“It’s been a personal challenge for me to defend people who have taken others’ lives,” Hardy says. “I knew that it was very important to Caitlin to help all people though. She did a lot of volunteer work and felt that whatever mistakes you make in your life shouldn’t define you. Nobody’s lives should be defined by the worst decision they have ever made. I shouldn’t be judgmental. It’s more important to protect the client’s rights.”

In the community, Hardy volunteers at the Humane Society and works with Project Open Hand, a meals-on-wheels delivery program for HIV/AIDS victims. “Looking back on it, being a part of Otterbein and being in a sorority has been so influential,” Hardy says, “There is nothing I would have changed, and I will love Otterbein forever.”