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Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Seniors leave mark with graduating gifts

The+fountain+outside+of+Dobbins+in+Graduates+Grove.+The+fountain+was+part+of+an+outside+classroom+donated+by+the+class+of+2007.
Charlize Wang
The fountain outside of Dobbins in Graduates Grove. The fountain was part of an outside classroom donated by the class of 2007.

Rose gardens. Eagle statues. Green benches. The listed items sound like a miscellaneous collection of decorations but actually represent past gifts from Harker’s graduating classes.

The gift-giving tradition from graduating classes began in 2002, which also marked the year of the first graduating class at Harker. Before the founding of the upper School, the eighth grade class gifted benches and other gifts upon their departure from the middle school. 

“Now that we’re a K to 12 school, you only graduate when you’re in 12th grade,” Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs Jennifer Gargano said.  “Once we made that transition of eighth graders having a promotion instead of a graduation when transitioning to the Upper School, we stopped the gift giving tradition for eighth graders. But class gifts have always even been an eighth grade tradition.”

By making a class gift, you are setting the stage for your alma mater, and the fact that you will stay involved as an alum

— Kimberly Lobe, Upper School Director of Advancement

Upper School Director of Advancement Kimberly Lobe worked with seniors in the gift giving process. 

“It’s the first step of alumni involvement, because any private school wants their alumni to stay involved,” Lobe said. “So I think by making a class gift, you are setting the stage for your alma mater, and the fact that you will stay involved as an alum.”

Throughout the year, student council members of the graduating class met to brainstorm possible gift ideas and consider suggestions from the entire class. 

The Shah gazebo donated by the Class of 2018, the Nichols Hall rotunda furniture donated by the class of 2019 and the eagle fountain by Shah donated by the class of 2021 constitute recent gifts endowed by graduating classes. 

Each gift also features a plaque commemorating the class that donated it, highlighting each senior class’s unique contribution to the Harker campus. Gargano especially remembers class gifts that honored faculty members who left a long-lasting impact at Harker. 

A statue honoring former English teacher Jason Berry outside upper school head Paul Barsky’s office. (Charlize Wang)

“The fountain by Dobbins was in honor of Ms. Cheryl Kavanaugh, an Upper School English Teacher who passed away many years ago,” Gargano said. “In front of Mr. Barsky’s Office, there’s a statue of a bear that was in honor of Jason Berry, another teacher who had passed, so that’s why it was a bear. Those are some of the ones that I particularly recall.”

The classes of 2018, 2013, 2008 and 2003 reunited at Santana Row on the weekend of Harker Day this year. 

“It’s always fun to see them at different increments of their lives, and alumni events are an opportunity to get in touch with the students,” Gargano said. “I taught the class of 2003, because I started here many years ago teaching, so that was a very special class to me. They were one of the last classes that knew me as a teacher, so it was really fun to connect with them.”

Class gifts serve as a unique physical reminder of the students once involved in the Harker community. The school administration also hopes alumni carry away valuable lessons from their time at Harker. 

“We want every Harker student and all of our alumni to feel good about what Harker gave them after they graduate and to feel as though they will forever be a part of the school,” Head of School Brian Yager said. “Even if they never come back to visit, we hope that they will always feel connected to the institution and feel as though the school helped their journey in life by making a positive impact.”

Update on December 6, 2023:

The Class of 2021 was the last graduating class to partake in the alumni gift-giving tradition. Head of School Brian Yager said the administration has discouraged classes from fundraising to raise money for gifts since 2022. 

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Harker maintains the alumni gift-giving tradition. This article was updated to correct this error. 

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About the Contributor
Charlize Wang, Reporter
Charlize Wang (11) is a reporter for Harker Aquila, and this is her second year on staff. This year, Charlize hopes to improve her journalistic writing abilities and grow closer to the members of the journalism team. In her free time, she likes to listen to music, visit cute cafes and watch dramas.

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