CICF News / 2012 / December / News Post
December 11, 2012
The Harger Family Way – From Farming To Philanthropy

The Harger family story spans more than nine decades in Hamilton County. And their commitment to both community and education runs just as deep.

In 1922, Walter Harger purchased a small plot of land to farm. In addition to farming, Walter was an educator, serving Hamilton County as the Superintendent of Schools prior to his passing in 1930. Walter’s son William Harger, known as “Bill”, followed in his father’s footsteps, farming that same plot and teaching high school math and science. Bill’s son Jim Harger never taught in the classroom, but he developed a passion for teaching and leading through his United States Army service and, later, while working with students de-tasseling corn on the family farm.

Harger Family
Juanita and Jim Harger, pictured with Barbara Harger Lotridge, were recognized with the Living Legacy Award by the Legacy Fund.

It’s not really much of a surprise that Jim married another educator, Juanita Talbott Harger. Or that they kept the farm going as they raised a family. But they also carried on another Harger family tradition – volunteerism and giving. The Harger family was recently recognized with the Living Legacy Award by the Legacy Fund, an affiliate of CICF, because of their long-term commitment to Hamilton County and education, as well as their role in promoting philanthropy.

Education Is the Key

Juanita Talbott Harger grew up in a farming family, too. Her childhood in Spiceland, Indiana, taught her the same sense of responsibility and hard work that Jim learned in Noblesville. Juanita valued education from an early age, and it showed. After graduating as Valedictorian from Spiceland High School in 1957, she took a job working for the U.S. Army at Fort Benjamin Harrison. But Juanita wanted a college degree. In 1961, she left her job to enroll at Indiana University, where she earned a BA in English and a teaching license in 1965. She later earned her MA in English at Ball State.

Jim and Juanita have two daughters, Barbara and Marla. Juanita took time away from her career while her children grew up, teaching part-time before earning her License in School Counseling from Butler in 1985. Counseling was an opportunity for Juanita to serve as a role model, much as others had been role models for her.

“Role models influenced me to save my money, quit my job and enroll full-time as a freshman at IU at the age of 21,” she says. “They believed in me and told me that I could do more – education was the key.”

That personal determination, coupled with her focus on community, led to a career that had a significant impact. Over a 15-year period, Juanita Harger provided counseling to more than 6,000 students.

Seeds of Giving

Jim’s parents were deeply involved in the community, providing a model of engagement and community commitment. The pair served a long list of organizations: The Noblesville Boys and Girls Club of America; the Riverview Hospital Foundation; the First Methodist Church; Noblesville Kappa Kappa Kappa Sorority; Riverview Hospital Auxiliary Board; Noblesville Public Schools; the Kiwanis; the Elks and; the Wainwright Bank and Trust. Their service wasn’t lost on Jim.

“Exposure to my parents’ philanthropic activities helped me identify the organizations that I was passionate about and wanted to give my time, money and energies to when I got older,” says Jim.

Besides being active in First United Methodist church, Jim spent 10 years on the Noblesville Township Advisory Board, the Board of Wainwright Bank and Trust, and was also the Founding President of Legacy Fund.

“It was easy for me to say yes when Bob Campbell and Teri Hanson came to me in 1991 to be the Founding President,” says Jim. “Legacy Fund was giving us an opportunity to expand philanthropic endeavors in a growing Hamilton County.”

Like Jim, Juanita has been involved with many organizations. Her role in the community includes leadership positions in church, clubs and organizations in Noblesville. She joined Tri Kappa Sorority and became president, and was also the Founding President of the Noblesville-Hamilton Southeastern Public Library Foundation.

Throughout their lives, Jim and Juanita Harger have planted seeds in all corners of their community that they are dedicated to nurturing, cultivating and growing. Juanita Harger likens the couple’s philanthropy to an intersection of shared beliefs and values developed from disparate beginnings.

“Jim and I view our journey as a ‘Y’,” says Juanita. “We came from two different paths and joined together to become one in our philanthropic goals: Education, People and Community.”

Read more about the Legacy Fund.