The Harker boarding program, which moved to the Saratoga campus in 1972, officially closed on Thurs., June 6, 2002, due to the growing space needs of Harker’s expanding K-Gr. 12 program. The decision to close the program at the end of the 2001-02 school year was extremely difficult for then president Howard Nichols, who was once a Harker boarding student.
Caring, capable staff took care of the health, academics and social lives of approximately 1,377 school year boarding students and approximately 2,100 summer boarding students when the program was active. Study hall, meals, recreation, shopping, haircuts – all the daily needs – were met by the enthusiastic, dedicated dorm staff.
Staff who have lived and/or worked in the dorm include Terry Walsh, Joe Rosenthal, Pam Dickinson, Pat Walsh, Cindy Kerr, J.R. Del Alto and Andrew Hansen. Many of the dorm staff were coaches, teachers and bus drivers by day, and dorm staff by night. Some started out at the Harker dorm and went on to be teachers.
The dorm provided a family element to the school over the years, and with breakfast and dinner served each day to the boarding students. Harker encouraged faculty to come early or stay late and spend time with the boarders. The boarders always enjoyed seeing teachers outside of the classroom, and many of the teachers developed special bonds with this “extended family.”
As the program ended, former dorm staff members shared some of their favorite memories:
“I remember that we would play capture-the-flag before study hall when daylight savings time commenced in the spring. We had a great time.”—Howard Nichols (1940-2008), former head of school
“Drive-in movies on the lawn where Dobbins is, big pool parties and whale-watching with 24 sick kids and three sick staffers. And I’ve got a million more!” —Pat Walsh, Gr. 5 teacher
“One of my fondest memories when I was a houseparent in the dorm was the Major’s dog, Dutch, a 140-lb. mastiff. Dutch was the unofficial school mascot, and as such, had the run of the dorms and the campus.”—Dan Gelineau, former asst. head of school
“Staying up all night with the kids reading fairy tales after an earthquake; hiking through the hills to cut down the perfect Christmas tree and then having a party to decorate it with handmade ornaments; making bag lunches for the girls so they could have ‘home’ lunch; sewing on untold numbers of patches on sweaters; knowing that kids like Marta, Theresa, Jessica and many others felt like they were ‘home.’” —Cindy Ellis, middle school head
“I’ll never know who really had more fun in the weekend boarding program — me or the kids!”—Pam Dickinson, director of the Office of Communication
“Sitting in the dorm office with a bowl of fruit on my desk and having boarders stop by after school for a snack and a chat. The younger kids would plop down on my lap for a little TLC. It will be strange after 23 years not to have children asking me for a key to their room or a dollar or two to buy snacks.” —Terry Walsh, archivist
“I have the greatest respect for the boarding students. Boarders become independent and self-reliant and remember the kindnesses shown to them and know how important kindness is in their lives. I am a much better person because of what I have seen these children do and the expressions of friendship and kindnesses shown to each other. Only if one lived it would one be able to know how meaningful and important the boarders have been to each other.” —Joe Rosenthal, executive director of advancement
—Compiled by the Harker History Committee