Long-time Harker teacher John Near was honored Aug. 20 at the school’s opening faculty dinner, where he was told the top history department award would be named for him and that he had received a prestigious service award.
Donna Gilbert, history and social science department chair, said, “The history department, to honor John Near and his lifelong passion for history and politics, his unparalleled devotion to his students, and the lasting impact that he has had on so many Harker students for 30-plus years, will now call our senior award the John Near Excellence in History Award. This is the top award given out each May to one deserving senior. The award will thusforth read: The senior who has earned the John Near Excellence in History award is one who embodies those remarkable qualities of John Near: a love of learning and an abiding passion for the drama and mystery of the human story.”
Near was further honored with the annual Harker Alumni Association’s Phyllis Carley Award, given each spring to an individual who has devoted time and energy, and made significant contributions, towards advancing The Harker School’s programs.
“The Phyllis Carley Service Award is meant to honor outstanding service to the school, and I can think of no worthier recipient than John Near,” said Head of School Chris Nikoloff. “John is a teacher’s teacher who puts students and education first. His service to the school flows from his unswerving commitment to excellence in history education and his uncanny ability to hook students onto the subject of history.”
Christina Yan ’93, spoke movingly on how being treated like an adult by Near made a such a difference in her life. “That was the magic of being in your classroom. You accepted our adolescence, and used that understanding to help us see more of the world in its contexts and complications. Life is never one-sided; history is always a matter of perspective. You respected our desire to be treated as adults and you taught us how to engage in the adult world by entertaining all matter of questions with a tone of seriousness. You never let us feel that you’d dumbed something down for us, and you allowed us to partake in your wry and dry humor.
“For myself, I thank you for helping me find appreciation and understanding for all the complexities of human social interaction – be they between friends or nations. Thank you for teaching me to reflect and see myself for who I actually am, and be proud. And on behalf of all of your students over the years, thank you for your dedication to helping the teenage mind and heart grow in so many ways.”
Fellow history teacher Ramsay Westgate attended the dinner and said, “John is someone for whom my respect and admiration professionally and personally knows no bounds. It was an honor and a privilege to be in attendance and to be able to celebrate how much John means to our community. The opportunity to work with him and get to know him the past five years has been invaluable and something that I treasure. ”
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