Looking back

Celebrating 12 years with President Harder 

In Bluffton’s more than 100 year history, just nine people have served the campus community as president. That longevity means under their leadership, they’ve had the perspective to truly see change occur. This has certainly been the experience of Dr. James M. Harder, who also shared that the most rewarding part of the job has been the privilege of simply working on Bluffton’s campus.

“I get to witness the energy and creativity of students on a near daily basis, watch lives be transformed and horizons expanded, and observe lifelong relationships being formed,” said Dr. Harder.

He’s also witnessed the aspects of Bluffton that have endured the test of time. When asked to summarize his presidency, Dr. Harder paid tribute to long-serving dean of students, Dr. Don Schweingruber.

“At Bluffton, it truly is, and always has been, all about the relationships.” 

Dr. Harder has routinely leaned on those relationships over the past 12 years, including the support of Dr. Karen Klassen Harder, his wife and professor of business. 

“I’m a collaborator by nature, and I have benefitted greatly from the willingness of so many different individuals—on the board, on the faculty and staff, within our alumni community and elsewhere—to offer helpful suggestions and support along the way. But above all, Karen has always been actively engaged in the work that I’ve done as president—especially her ability to support a culture of hospitality and welcome at Bluffton. I can’t imagine the president’s role without her at my side.”

While the hardest part of the job has been trying to fit everything in (“I haven’t been able to invent the 30-hour day or 60-week year,” he joked), he’s also experienced the delightfully unexpected.

“I’ve been surprised by the frequency with which, as I’m out and about, people recognize me and identify themselves proudly as having a connection to Bluffton,” said Dr. Harder. “This has happened at many events and meetings of other types and organizations where I least expect it, while on personal vacations far off the beaten path, and even internationally. Bluffton’s 15,000 living alumni seem to pop up everywhere!” 


Inauguration President Harder is inaugurated as Bluffton's ninth president

The Harders

Houshower House
Houshower House opens as the
alumni hospitality center.


Civic Engagement Day
Bluffton’s annual Civic
Engagement theme begins.

Musical 2007

Theatre 2007
The Nord-Ignat Chair in
theatre is established.


Circle of Remembrance
The Circle of Remembrance is
dedicated and enhancements are
made to Memorial Field.
China trip
President Harder and Dr. Karen
Klassen Harder lead Bluffton
MBA students on a trip to China. 
Endowed faculty scholarship grants are established as part of the
Extending Our Reach campaign.                                                           



2009 Walking across Beechy
Bluffton achieves a 10-year
institutional reaccreditation by
the Higher Learning Commission.


President Harder
Enhancements are made to
College Hall and Musselman
Library for ADA accessibility

Locker rooms Locker rooms
The football/baseball locker
room complex in Burcky
addition is renovated.


Graphic arts lab
Major upgrades are made to
the digital graphic design lab in
Sauder Visual Arts.

J Denny Beaver
J. Denny Beaver is introduced as
Bluffton's newest mascot during
the 2010-11 academic year.

Beaver Reveal 2011
The first group of
J. Denny Beavers revealed
their identities during a men's
basketball game.


ISPP 2012
The Individualized Supervised 
Practice Pathway (ISPP) dietetics
internship is established.
Sommer Center

Ribbon cutting
Sommer Center is dedicated and
opens for student use.


College Hall
The business office in
College Hall is remodeled and
reconfigured for better
student access.

College Hall

Campus map
Four outdoor map displays,
donated by the class of 1963,
are installed at key places
around campus.


Collaborative MBA
The Collaborative MBA
(a Bluffton partnership with
Canadian Mennonite University,
Eastern Mennonite University and
Goshen College) is established.

Students embark on the first
semester-long experience to

Sand Volleyball Courts
Sand volleyball courts are
installed near Neufeld Hall.


Relationship Bench
The “It’s all about relationships
bench” is installed in honor of
Dr. Don Schweingruber.

Alumni Field
Alumni Field is dedicated upon the
installation of artificial turf
and upgrades to the running track
and Salzman Stadium.       

Renovations are made, 
over the course of three years, 
to the lobbies and restroom
facilities for Bren-Dell, Hirschy and
Hirschy Annex residence halls.

Online learning is introduced

to the Bluffton Cohort-based
Organizational Management
Program (BCOMP) curriculum.  


          Mara Alva House is renovated to
house offices for advancement.


International ties are
strengthened during China
West Normal University’s 70th

Nursing and SLPA
Nursing and speech-language
pathology and audiology
programs are launched.


International recruiting
International student recruiting
efforts are expanded.
International recruiting

New apartments
Bluffton’s first apartments
for students open.


Knowlton Science Center



Knowlton Science Center
design work is completed.

Bluffton’s Enduring Values 
Program, a new general education 
curriculum, is approved.                          



President Harder    

While Dr. Harder is looking forward to not wanting
a 30-hour day or 60-week year in the days and weeks
ahead, he also isn’t rushing into retirement.

“I have worked hard this final year to live fully in the
Bluffton moment and think about what’s next when the 
time comes,” said Dr. Harder.

After July 1, Dr. Harder plans to travel and fulfill another 
very important role—first-time grandparent. And, he’s
looking forward to witnessing change and growth on campus
while knowing some things will always endure. 

“No matter how challenging it can be at times, there is
no doubt in my mind that furthering Bluffton’s mission is
important work.”


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