"Find your hope, cherish it, and set about actively realizing it. Grapple early with your fears; face them from the beginning. Try to live a life of usefulness and action. Look about you: see plan in what seems a chaotic world; find generosity and tolerance where you are led to believe there is selfishness and bigotry; then be generous and tolerant yourself."
- Edith Hatcher Harcum, from an early Harcum Commencement address.
Harcum College from its inception has sought to enrich its graduates by broadening their intellectual and cultural horizons with practical, experiential education and exposure to the liberal arts. The origin of Harcum can be traced back to February 1913 when Edith Hatcher, a talented concert pianist and daughter of prominent Virginia clergyman and educator Dr. William E. Hatcher, married Octavius Marvin Harcum, another Virginian.
Mrs. Harcum studied music, performed piano concerts in Europe and the U.S., and was head of the music department at The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, PA. She decided after the birth of her first child that “the concert career did not offer a chance for family stability” so the couple chose a venture that would combine her “talents as an educator and artist and his business vision and ability.”
The Harcum Post Graduate School opened on October 1, 1915 in Melville Hall in Bryn Mawr which was home to the Harcum family as well as the School’s academic building. The first class had three students and five pianos. Mrs. Harcum’s stated goal was to “start a school where the individual talent of each girl would be treated as an integral part of her education.” To help her plan the curriculum, she had as consultants her sister Orie Hatcher, a faculty member at Bryn Mawr College, a faculty member from Harvard University, and the President of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Though her own expertise was in the fine arts, Edith was also committed to providing a strong academic program.
In its early years, Harcum was a preparatory school, giving women students the skills needed for college study. It quickly grew, soon adding junior college-level courses. The "lower school" program was eliminated in the 1920’s, and the junior college program was put in place. Edith Harcum was head of school, and Mr. Harcum, or "Uncle Marvin" as the students called him, was responsible for finances. When he was killed in a car accident in 1920, Edith assumed the Presidency. She remained in that post for more than 30 years with the exception of one academic year, 1945-1946, when Dr. John Barber served as President.
Harcum grew steadily through the 1930s and 1940s with a student enrollment of 185 in 1948. Mrs. Harcum’s individualized approach placed the academic focus on the needs of each student. However, Harcum was a proprietary institution and faced financial difficulties. In 1952, it could no longer run as a profitable enterprise; Mrs. Harcum declared bankruptcy.
The Junto is a non-profit educational corporation founded in 1941 to promote adult education in the Philadelphia region, adopting the name of a group originally co-founded by Benjamin Franklin. In 1952 The Junto purchased the assets of Harcum College for possible use as a residential college for adults but soon decided to continue its mission as a two-year college for women. Philip Klein, one of the founders of The Junto assumed leadership of Harcum and it was re-opened under a nonprofit charter. In 1955, Pennsylvania granted the College the right to be the first two-year college in the Commonwealth’s history to confer the associate of arts and the associate of science degrees. Mrs. Harcum passed away in 1958 at the age of 80, leaving a legacy of compassionate and dedicated service to students and the community.
Extensive building and expansion occurred at Harcum in the 1960’s under the direction of President Michael Duzy, with the addition of the Academic Center, Pennswood Hall, and Klein Hall. Through expansion in its neighborhood, the Bryn Mawr campus reached a size of 13 acres. Harcum opened a nursery school for teacher training, and in the 1960’s and 1970’s, began programs in medical sciences. Between 2000 and today, Harcum launched programs in nursing, occupational therapy assistant, physical therapist assistant, interior and residential design, and radiologic technology, among others.
Since 2007, under the leadership of Dr. Jon Jay DeTemple Harcum’s Charles Trout Library underwent a $1.2 million refurbishment, the historic Little Theatre was completely renovated, new programs were added, and Harcum expanded its academic offerings throughout the region with many Partnership Sites in Philadelphia, Reading, and Chester, Pennsylvania as overall enrollment increased to nearly 1,700, the highest in its history. In 2014 the NJCAA Division I Bears men’s basketball team went to the NJCAA National Semifinals, the first final four appearance in the history of the program.
Harcum will continue to help students find appropriate directions for their academic and personal development leading to specialized careers, while, as Mrs. Harcum noted “respecting each student as an individual with personal needs, interests, aptitudes and aspirations.”
The Harcum College Seal’s first known use was in 1921 and appeared in a shield. It became a circle after World War II and retained that basic shape, in several iterations, until 2012. In 2012 the College carefully restored the original College seal, which is the version seen here.
The center of the seal consists of a knight's plumed helmet resting on a shield, which is emblazoned with the numbers of the College’s founding year, 1915, entwined with a highly stylized iris flower (also known as fleur-de-lis). Below the shield are the Latin words “Gesta Verbis Praevenient” which translated into English means “Deeds before Words.”
The College Seal reflects the importance placed by founders Edith and Octavius Harcum on a practical combination of academic and experiential learning, founded in the individual needs and abilities of each student.