History Website Timeline - Images by The Harker School The Harker School
By: Terry Sweeney Walsh
This article originally appeared in the winter 2011 Harker Quarterly.
Manzanita Hall, founded by Frank Cramer at the urging of Stanford University’s first president, David Starr Jordan, is established in a private home at Waverly Street and University Avenue in Palo Alto.
- In September 1902, Catherine Harker, also encouraged by David Starr Jordon, opens The Thoburn School, a boarding school for young ladies. The preparatory school for girls is located at Kingsley and Bryant streets in Palo Alto. Initially a high school, The Thoburn School enrolls 80 students in its first year and graduates seven.
- In the second year, the school’s name was changed to the Harker-Hughes School when Elizabeth Hughes came in as principal. Hughes stayed only one year.
The Harker-Hughes School comes to be known simply as Miss Harker’s School in honor of Catherine Harker, whose scholarly achievements begin a tradition of academic excellence. Initially a high school, a lower school for girls age 5-14 is added between 1903 and 1921. The high school program is eliminated in the 1950s.
Miss Harker’s School relocates to a 6.25-acre pasture at Harriet and Greenwood avenues in Palo Alto. The same year, Catherine’s sister, Sara Harker, joins the school as a silent business partner. Sara later becomes active in the school’s management.
- Colonel Richard P. Kelly, Dr. Greenville C. Emery, Katherine Monroe and Nellie P. Hansen purchase Manzanita Hall and launch the Palo Alto Military Academy (PAMA). At PAMA, in the second academic year, the high school is eliminated and grades 1-8 are taught. High school won’t return to either school until 1998.
- Nellie Hanson spends 32 years operating the school’s summer camp, Camp El Dorado, at Alpine Lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.
Catherine Harker dies suddenly, leaving the school’s management to her sister, Sara Harker.
Major Donald L. Nichols, a 1926 graduate of Palo Alto Military Academy, purchases the school and takes over as superintendent when Col. Richard Kelly retires after 30 years of leading the school. Nichols brings along Lawrence Torcellini from San Rafael Military Academy as commandant of cadets.
Alice Williams, a teacher at the school, is appointed principal of the Harker Day School, as it is reorganized to be a coeducational day school. Williams is influential in setting the philosophy and direction of the school in keeping with Sara Harker’s vision. Williams continues as principal when PAMA and Harker Day School merge and move to the new campus in San Jose.
Major Donald L. Nichols purchases Harker Day School, located across the street from PAMA. He is simultaneously superintendent at PAMA and president of Harker Day School.
Howard Nichols, son of Major Donald L. Nichols and a 1956 graduate of PAMA, joins PAMA’s staff as assistant commandant, P.E. teacher, athletic director and junior high school coach.
PAMA and Harker Day School merge and become Harker Academy. The new school moves to the Mother Butler High School property in San Jose, now the upper school Saratoga campus. The new property is purchased with a significant personal investment from the Nichols family, and their commitment ensures the future of Harker Academy.
- The dedication of the Donald L. Nichols Sports Complex, with swimming, pool, tennis courts and athletic field, is held in May.
- Harker Grade 8 students take the first trip to Yosemite Institute.
- Principal Alice Williams retires after 29 years of service.
- The optional military program is phased out and extracurricular offerings are greatly expanded. Grade 9 is dropped and Harker Academy becomes a K-8 school.
- Nearly 100 years after Frank Cramer opened Manzanita Hall, Harker Academy is renamed The Harker School.
- Headmaster Howard Nichols is named president of The Harker School and principal Diana Nichols is appointed as head of school.
- Dobbins Hall opens in September on the Saratoga campus. The building includes 12 classrooms and two science labs.
The Bucknall campus is purchased in January and opens in September with kindergarten through grade 3. The new Harker upper school opens on the Saratoga campus and admits the first grade 9 students. Adding one class per year, subsequent years brought grades 10, 11 and 12 to the upper school.
Shah Hall opens in September for grades 7-8. The building includes nine classroom and three science labs
- The boarding program closes at the end of the academic year. The Harker Academy dorms were home to our boarding students for 30 years. With the opening of the upper school, the building was partially remodeled and named Manzanita Hall, where students now gather to dine.
- Inaugural upper school graduation.
Howard and Diana Nichols retire at the end of the academic year in June and Christopher Nikoloff, the associate head, is appointed as head of school.
Davis Field, the first of two major athletic facilities to be completed, opens at the Saratoga campus in September.
- Saratoga’s new swimming complex, the Singh Aquatic Center, opens in January.
- Nichols Hall, Harker’s LEED certified, 52,000-square-foot science and technology building, opens on the Saratoga campus in August.
- Former Harker president Howard Nichols dies in December, aged 68.
The new upper school library opens in August. The 3,803-square- foot facility features an eBeam-equipped classroom, expanded study areas and greater wireless connectivity.
Harker begins its 119th academic year.