This story originally appeared in the spring 2014 Harker Quarterly.
by Ellen DiBiase
The Vashist Family
Rajesh and Rohini Vashist (Mallika, grade 6) embody both the philosophy and mission of Harker to develop not only lifelong learners but also well-rounded, caring citizens. “Like many parents, we want our child to do well and go to a top school. More than that, however, we want her to be a lovely and confident, good human being,” said the couple.
Several years ago, when considering schools for their daughter, the Vashists noticed that many of their friends’ children attended Harker, and they found Harker students to be exceptional in both their intellectual curiosity and character. The Vashists appreciated that at Harker they would be surrounded by a mix of parents who are serious about education.
Upon joining the Harker community, the Vashists began to contribute their time and resources in a number of meaningful ways. Each year, they have supported the annual Harker Family & Alumni Picnic as well as the Harker Fashion Show (now called Night on the Town), and Rohini has volunteered in her daughter’s homeroom and with various performing arts programs.
On top of their annual giving contribution, the Vashists also have made a very generous commitment via a planned gift of privately held stock to the school. In doing so, they became members of the Entrepreneurs’ Circle within The Nichols Family Planned Giving Society at Harker. “We want to do everything we can to support the quality of teachers, programs and classrooms in order to perpetuate the Harker experience for as many children as possible,” said Rohini, who especially values the great learning opportunities Harker students have beyond the classroom.
Formerly in international hotel management with the Sheraton Group and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, she appreciates the trips and excursions that supplement the students’ education. Her husband, a fellow avid traveler, has spent the majority of his career in the semiconductor industry and since 2007 has served as the CEO of SiTime Corp., the fastest-growing semiconductor company.
Daughter Mallika currently participates in the Spirit Club, dance and basketball at Harker. “We see the phenomenal product of Harker, and we feel blessed and lucky to live close enough to be a part of this community,” said Rohini.
As the founder of Harker’s visual arts program, Margaret Peterson introduced a variety of techniques and art forms to the school’s students over the course of 22 years, both as a teacher and a volunteer.
Introducing art to the Harker community was a gradual process, as appropriate spaces had to be identified to house an art studio, display student pieces and store large equipment, such as a kiln. Through the years, student artwork gained prominent displays around campus in an effort to showcase the diverse talents of Harker students. “Display of our art at school and out in the community was important because it gave students pride in their work and because it would be a visible addition to Harker’s strong academic program,” said Peterson, who began teaching at Harker in 1982.
Peterson first taught art after school and to grades 6-8 and later added K-5 art classes. Her classes featured lessons in clay, block prints, sculpture and water- color, and her students were known for using repurposed wire frames each year to build large papier-mâché models including a dinosaur and a Volkswagen car, which were then featured in Harker’s annual Halloween parade.
Peterson retired from Harker in 2002 but continued to volunteer in the after-school program for two more years. Upon her retirement, she pledged to make a planned gift to Harker’s general endowment fund with the intention that, as the administration sees fit, the proceeds could be used toward scholarships and, in particular, scholarships to visual arts students who might not otherwise be able to attend or continue to attend Harker.