On Oct. 10, all four Harker campuses celebrated the birthday of Howard Nichols, the longtime Harker president who was crucial to Harker’s identity as a school dedicated to growth in character as well as academics.
Nichols, who became head of school in 1973, served the Harker community with his wife, Diana (who has served on Harker’s Board of Trustees for more than 30 years). As president, Howard helped shape Harker into a school that prized character as much as academics. His vision for the school lives on in many key areas, including the Honor Code, the expansive performing arts department and the broad array of programs.
In 1992, when Harker Academy was renamed The Harker School, Howard was named president while Diana assumed duties as head of school. Together, they led a massive effort to add an upper school, which opened in 1998.
Howard and Diana retired in 2005, and just three short years later, Howard passed away from cancer.
Every year, the school celebrates Howard’s birthday by serving fresh chocolate chip cookies to students, faculty and staff. This custom is a nod to Howard’s practice of keeping a jar of cookies in his office, signaling to all who passed by that his door was open to anyone who felt like dropping in for a chat.
The morning upper school meetings were marked by touching tributes from Spanish teacher Diana Moss and upper school science chair Anita Chetty. Moss recalled being astounded by Howard’s ability to personally honor the people who helped run the school, when at a special event he recognized by name every member of the faculty and staff and thanked them for their service. Chetty remarked that Howard’s birthday is a chance to remember and learn from his leadership style, based not on authority, but on “kindness, compassion and generosity.”