This article originally appeared in the summer 2014 Harker Quarterly.
Butch and Jane Keller can hardly believe they have reached the five-year milestone of the Keller Tour, an annual series of trips during which they visit with Harker alumni attending various colleges throughout the United States.
The first Keller Tour was in spring 2009 when Butch Keller, upper school head, and his wife, Jane, an upper school math teacher, headed to New York to attend a performance by The Harker School Orchestra at Lincoln Center. Several alumni living in the area heard the Kellers were in town and asked them to stop by. Soon after, requests began flooding in from other alumni to “come out and see us,” recalled Butch Keller.
Today, the tour serves as an opportunity not only to stay in touch with alumni, but also to visit with them while they are still in college, gaining invaluable feedback on how well Harker prepared them for university life.
This year’s Keller Tour officially launched last fall with a trip to visit alums at the University of California, Davis. During that visit, the Kellers were treated to a performance by the school’s dance team during halftime at a Sacramento Kings game.
Then, over the March break, the Keller Tour continued with a trip to St. Louis, Mo., to spend several days with Harker alumni at Washington University. Butch Keller said he enjoyed some one-on-one time with former Harker basketball player Kevin Susai ’13. Meanwhile, Jane Keller said her former advisee, Kaavya Cherukuri ’11, gave her a lovely tour of the school’s campus. A brief detour to Chicago allowed the Kellers to enjoy a performance by The Harker School Orchestra, which was playing in the Chicago Symphony’s International Music Festival.
From there, the Kellers traveled to Southern California for a three-school tour. Highlights of that trip included a dinner with some University of Southern California students near L.A. LIVE, an entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles. That dinner was arranged by Hassaan Ebrahim ’11. Following was a get-together in Westwood with alumni attending the University of California, Los Angeles, which Butch Keller said ended with a brief, “but much enjoyed sighting of Johnny Depp.”
The tour of the Southern California schools concluded with a lunch with alumni attending the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The Kellers also were treated to a tour of the Cal Tech campus by Chat Malladi ’12.
Shortly after returning from spring break, the Kellers headed to the Stanford University campus for a baseball game at which some alums watched Butch Keller, standing on the diamond, throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game.
The evening concluded with Stanford winning the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Keller Tour concluded with dinner with Harker alums attending Santa Clara University, followed by dessert at the Mission Ice Creamery.
“In a year where over 100 students were visited, the common theme was appreciation for the teachers who cared enough to make a difference in and out of the classroom. Another topic discussed at almost every stop is the confidence students gained while at Harker,” reported Butch Keller, noting that many alumni said that they gained the confidence to speak to college professors or teaching assistants from the ease of working with Harker’s upper school teachers.
“Many alumni enjoy talking about their Harker years but are also excited to share stories of their college experiences. These conversations range from the struggles of being a college athlete to learning to manage time and budgets. We are continually fascinated to hear about the adventures of the varied extracurricular activities that range from club lacrosse to singing in musical groups,” said Butch Keller.
The Kellers are already looking forward to planning next year’s trip. “We love visiting with alumni on their turf. The excitement in their voices and the fun they have telling stories makes every second of the trip enjoyable,” they concurred.