Jan (Ian) Eisenhardt was born April 24th, 1906 in Hjørring, Denmark. After attending schools in Denmark and France, Eisenhardt received a scholarship to study at the University of British Columbia’s School of Commerce in 1928. From 1929-1930, Eisenhardt worked as a Playground Attendant for the City of Vancouver before returning to France to play professional football (soccer) for the Olympique de Marseille football club. In 1932, Eisenhardt returned to Vancouver and became the Playground Supervisor for Vancouver. In 1933, Eisenhardt became a Canadian citizen.
In 1934, as the Director of Physical Education for the Province of BC, Eisenhardt developed and led the Provincial Recreation program, popularly known as Pro Rec. In this role and as the Chairman of a federal committee on Youth Welfare, Eisenhardt developed recreation and fitness programs for the unemployed during the Depression. At the outbreak of World War II, Eisenhardt enlisted in the Canadian Army, rising to the rank of Major and becoming the director of the Canadian Army Sports Program in 1943. In 1944, he was named National Director of Physical Fitness for Canada and appointed chair of the National Council on Physical Fitness where he participated in drafting the National Physical Fitness Act. After the war, Eisenhardt became the Director of Staff Activities for the United Nations in New York in 1947 and was later assigned to UNESCO in Paris.
In February of 1950, Eisenhardt became the Supervisor of Physical Education and Recreation for the Indian Affairs branch of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. In this role, he toured and drafted a physical education programme for residential schools and established the Tom Longboat Awards. By November of 1951, dissatisfied with the lack of support for the physical education program, Eisenhardt resigned from his position effective December 1951. In January 1952, shortly after beginning his job as the Director of Canadair Employees’ Recreation Association in Montreal, he was fired from this position after having allegedly been ‘blacklisted’ by the Canadian government. Eisenhardt later spent years working to clear his name and made a claim for compensation from the government.
In Quebec, Eisenhardt worked for the Community Club in La Tuque in 1953 and was hired by the Dominion Life Assurance Company in Montreal in 1954. Eisenhardt was active in the Danish community in Canada, serving as President of the Danish Club in Montreal from 1960-1965. In the 1970s, Eisenhardt worked as a lecturer of Scandinavian literature and Campus Administrator for John Abbott College where he organized tours of Denmark and East Germany for students. Eisenhardt continued to promote fitness and recreation initiatives, including crossing the Øresund Bridge from Denmark to Sweden in 2000 and Walk for Health, where he visited elementary schools to promote staying active. As a resident of Dorval, Eisenhardt ran for Alderman in 1992 and Mayor in 1998.
Later in life, Eisenhardt received many accolades for his contributions to sport and recreation in Canada including a Canadian Sports Lifetime Achievement Award, a Queen’s Jubilee Medal, and was a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada. He received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Malaspina University College (now Vancouver Island University) in 2004. Jan Eisenhardt married Barbara Ferdon in 1949 and had four children. Barbara died in 1995 and Jan Eisenhardt died on December 26, 2004 at the age of 98.