From its early beginnings in 1893 — when Stanford University leaders assisted in its establishment — to its reputation today as a leading preparatory school with students attending prestigious universities worldwide, Harker’s mission has remained constant: to create an environment that promotes academic excellence, inspires intellectual curiosity, expects personal accountability and forever instills a genuine passion for learning. Whether striving for academic achievement, raising funds for global concerns, performing on stage or scoring a goal, Harker students encourage and support one another and celebrate each other’s efforts and successes, at Harker and beyond. Harker is a dynamic, supportive, fun and nurturing community where kids and their families make friends for life.
The Harker School tradition spans more than 100 years and our roots run deep in this valley. In 1893, David Starr Jordan, then president of Stanford University, saw a need for a local preparatory school to raise the standards of academics and moral character at his university, so he encouraged biologist and Stanford graduate Frank Cramer to establish the Manzanita Hall for Boys. With similar goals in mind, Jordan inspired Catherine Harker to found the nearby Miss Harker’s School for Girls in 1902. Both schools provided a superior education and emphasized not only scholarship, but also ethics and leadership.
In 1919 Manzanita Hall became the Palo Alto Military Academy (PAMA). Major Donald Nichols, who assumed leadership of PAMA in 1950, acquired Miss Harker’s School for Girls, transforming it into a coeducational day school. Major Nichols merged the two schools in 1972, and moved the school to the current Saratoga Avenue location, under the name Harker Academy. In 1973 Howard Nichols assumed leadership, and over the years phased out the military program and expanded the academic focus. Diana Nichols became the head of the school in 1983. Together, Howard and Diana Nichols led Harker’s rise to international prominence, along the way officially changing the school’s name to The Harker School.
To fill the growing need for exceptional, non-religious high school education in the Bay Area, Harker expanded in 1998 to include grades 9-12. Fully enrolled since its inception, our upper school quickly earned a reputation for excellence, with students matriculating to prestigious universities throughout the world.
Harker now proudly serves more than 1,800 students from kindergarten to grade 12 on three San Jose campuses. Howard and Diana Nichols retired as administrators in the spring of 2005 and Head of School Christopher Nikoloff, along with a dedicated and passionate community of faculty, students and families, continues Harker’s tradition of excellence today.
Service and helping others – locally and globally - is in the DNA of the Harker community. More than 300 nonprofit programs are supported by Harker students through fundraisers, advocacy and awareness campaigns and volunteerism. From annually collecting hundreds of pounds of food for local food banks, to presenting youth-generated solutions to global issues on behalf of the nation, Harker students are passionate, caring citizens of their communities and the world.
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