Alumni and Friends

University of Hard Knocks

The University of Hard Knocks is an honorary society recognizing persons who have made a success of their life without the benefit of higher education. UHK, as it is affectionately called by its 1,200 living alumni, meets annually on the campus of its sponsor Alderson Broaddus University.

Every June the "mythical university," as it was labeled by its founder, conducts annual commencement exercises for the year's new crop of graduates.  An alumni reunion in the Trustees Board Room is a Saturday afternoon tradition, followed by a banquet in the college dining room and graduation exercises in the chapel. 


The University of Hard Knocks was founded by the late West Virginia historian and publisher Jim Comstock who, in 1947, printed the first diploma from the "University of Hard Knocks College of Blood, Sweat and Tears" on his own printing press for a business associate who had "a Bigelow on the floor but no diploma on the wall."  Soon, with the help of his weekly newspaper - and The Associated Press - the idea circulated around the world.  West Virginia Senator Jennings Randolph became the society's honorary mascot and suggested the school colors:  black and blue.  He enlisted the talents of powerful friends and associates.  The commencement address has been delivered by U.S. Senators Barry Goldwater, Wendell Ford, Jesse Helms, and Conrad Burns. All were Presidents of their respective classes.  Others include Chicago insurance executive W. Clement Stone, Washington Times Editor Arnaud DeBorchgrave, McDonald's International President Michael Quinlan, and corporate executives from Johnson & Johnson, the Fanny May Candy Company, and the coal and timber industries.  U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd serves as the current mascot.

When Comstock's alumni clamored for a meeting, the honorary society got together sporadically in places like the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, the Daniel Boone Hotel in Charleston, and hotels and country clubs throughout West Virginia and Virginia.  Alumni chapters formed in Maryland, Indiana and in Comstock's home state.  In 1976, UHK moved its offices to the Alderson Broaddus University campus where it has met annually ever since.  Alumni activities include several area dinners each year, train rides, and boat excursions on West Virginia rivers.

The Great Seal

The Great Seal of the University of Hard Knocks is an attempt to illustrate through heraldic symbols the desirable virtues and attributes which identify the members of the University of Hard Knocks.  The 14th century Heater Shield was the "real thing" in the fight for life.  The Chevron is an imposing and challenging Mountain of Life, reminiscent of our West Virginia hills, and constitutes a rafter, UHK's mission of building bridges for youth.  The Crest Coronet, an ancient crown, was earned and not inherited.  An Arm in Armor Grasping a Hammer indicates that most worthwhile things are accomplished through effort and, in the hands of an artisan, the hammer is a basic tool for peace. The Hand of God recognizes Divine Intervention in our lives, and the Dextochere Clasping a Golden Heart is the ancient symbol of love and charity.  The Martlet, a Medieval bird of mythology without any feet, traditionally symbolized achievement by one's own endeavors.  It lived its whole life in the air without touching the ground.  The owl, an ancient symbol of wisdom, signifies wisdom learned from experience.  The motto, Sanguis, Sudor, Lacrimae, or Blood, Sweat, and Tears, is represented by three golden drops.  The laurel leaves were a classic prize of victory.  A sprig of oak is associated with age, strength, and endurance.  Taken together, the Devisal of Arms of the University of Hard Knocks is a fitting and perpetual tribute to the qualities of personhood and achievement of those who qualify for this honorary society.


Membership in the University of Hard Knocks is open to anyone nominated by a UHK alumnus, or who presents credentials to the President for approval by the membership committee.  A one-time fee of $100 covers the cost of enrollment.  Annual Alumni Dues of $10 includes a subscription the Black & Blue Report, the Universities newsletter.  Membership is open to anyone who does not possess a Bachelor's Degree but who, through the exercise of persistence, diligence, and hard work, has achieved a balance of financial success, civic service, and other life goals indicating a successfully self-made individual. UHK graduates have created a Jim Comstock Scholarship and a Comstock Memorial Garden on the AB campus.

Contact Information 

Interested persons may write for further information to:

UHK President
Alderson Broaddus University
Box 2125
Philippi, WV  26416
Ph. 304.457.6202
Fx. 304.457.6239