By Ellen DiBiase
This article was originally published in the spring 2013 Harker Quarterly.
Three visionary gifts from donors, made early in Harker’s expansion to a K-12 school, are still making a major impact on our students’ experience today.
The Shah/Krishnan Family
When the decision was made to create an upper school program, it was clear that a new building would need to be added to the Saratoga campus to house Harker’s middle school students. Thus, Shah Hall was constructed with Ajay Shah and Lata Krishnan making the lead gift during the second phase of the capital campaign, giving Harker’s middle school students a brand new set of classrooms to call their own.
The couple co-founded SMART Modular Technologies in 1989, a memory module company that later merged with Solectron, and they continue to achieve great success today via their technology-based private equity firm. As role models for budding entrepreneurs in the Indian community, they came together with several other families to create the American India Foundation in 2001, an initiative to accelerate the social and economic development in India and strengthen the bonds between India and the U.S. Their focus on global outreach includes strong support of any educational programming that encourages students to challenge themselves, and they were happy to support Harker’s “Cornerstones of Success Campaign.”
Today, Shah Hall houses the upper school’s history classrooms, as the Saratoga campus remains flexible to best meet the demands of any given school year. Each summer, Harker also welcomes students from around the world to Shah Hall to participate in the English Language Institute (ELI). Shah and Krishnan have given many hours of volunteer service to the school, serving on the Parent Technology Advisory Committee and hosting several head of school gatherings and focus groups at their home. Their eldest child, Kavita ’07, earned a B.A. in international relations from Stanford and now works for Google. Rohan ’10 is currently pursuing a B.S. in science, technology and society at Stanford.
The Davis Family
Harker homecoming games would not be complete without the large motor home seen in the upper school parking lot every year. This grand tailgating experience is courtesy of John and Christine Davis. Their benevolence doesn’t stop there, however; just before each game, excited fans file into the bleachers of Davis Field, a state-of-the-art athletic facility gifted by the family to the school and built during the third phase of the capital campaign.
“Through the generosity of the Davis family and their donation towards Davis Field, we have seen tremendous growth in our athletics program witnessed not only through our teams’ increased competitiveness but also as a gathering space for the entire Harker community,” said Dan Molin, Harker’s athletic director.
Davis Field has become a centerpiece of student life at Harker, hosting soccer, football and lacrosse games at night while serving as a casual meeting spot for students looking to catch some sun while studying or play a quick game of Ultimate Frisbee during their lunch breaks.
The Davis’ son, Cole ’10, was an all-star athlete during his time at Harker, participating in wrestling, football and swimming at the varsity level. He now swims for Stanford and recently competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team swim trials. While Cole was at Harker, John and Christine Davis dedicated much of their time to advancing the school, serving as room parents, team parents, development council members, capital campaign committee members, founding fashion show co-chairs, and Family & Alumni Picnic volunteers.
Since Cole’s graduation, Harker has been pleased to see that John and Christine are still familiar faces on campus, despite many additional philanthropic interests that also bid for their time. Christine currently serves on Harker’s Board of Trustees, and both John and Christine continue to regularly attend the school’s special events and head of school gatherings.
The Patil Family
After 10 years as an instructor at both MIT and the University of Utah, Suhas Patil was just beginning what would prove to be an impactful career in the technology industry. He went on to found Cirrus Logic, one of the first semiconductor companies to utilize a fabless business model. His wife, Jayshree, has always shared Suhas’ interest in education and technology, having earned a master’s degree in education and administration and presently serving as a senior executive in their current startup.
Both parents have greatly assisted Harker in past years by contributing their thoughts and time to the Parent Technology Advisory Committee and capital campaign planning meetings.
Though their daughter, Teja ’02, ultimately continued her own rigorous academic pursuit in the field of epidemiology and is now a resident at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, the Patils chose to highlight another of their daughter’s interests, performing arts, in their gift to the school. The classes currently offered in the Patil performing arts wing of Manzanita Hall on the Saratoga campus will soon move to the new sports and performing arts complex, to be built within the next few years. The Patil Theater will be the premier venue for Harker student performances and community events.
Laura Lang-Ree, Harker’s K-12 director of performing arts, said, “We have over 950 students actively performing each year and no current home for them to hone their craft. These young performers are used to making do in the gym at Bucknall or the cafeteria at Blackford. The first time our amazing students walk into a theater, their theater, it will change their lives. They will hear notes they have never been able to hear before, create music in new ways, be a part of a technical theater team where they can actually build and run the shows in their own space, and their work will reach heights they can’t even imagine right now.”
The Patils feel that education should be our country’s number one priority, and they recognize the importance of K-12 education in providing the foundation necessary for the next generation to remain agile in the workforce.
As parents and also as mentors through TiE, The Indus Entrepreneurs group they co-founded in 1992, Suhas and Jayshree Patil encourage young people to explore multiple fields, including science, math and the humanities, to gain a wider breadth of learning. Their own daughter was able to do just that at Harker, balancing a demanding class load with participation in the performing arts and in the mentoring program.
As Harker continues to address the needs of the whole child, the school is thrilled to provide new facilities that will let our students thrive in their respective fields of interest, whether in the lab, on the court or taking center stage.