Commencement speaker


Retiring Bluffton president named 2018 Commencement speaker

Dr. James M. Harder, president of Bluffton University, will serve many roles during the 2018 graduation ceremony, including Commencement speaker. During the Sunday, May 6 event, Dr. Harder will address the graduates on the theme of “An Ever-Widening Circle.”  He will also be recognized for his 12 years of leadership as Bluffton’s president, in advance of his planned June 30 retirement.

Dr. Harder is the ninth president of Bluffton University, serving since August 2006.  Prior to serving as president, he was Bluffton’s vice president for institutional planning, including responsibility for strategic planning and institutional research and implementing the transition from Bluffton College to Bluffton University, which occurred in 2004. He also served as a faculty member at Bluffton, teaching economics for five years from 2001-2006.

Before coming to Bluffton, Dr. Harder served 12 years as professor of economics at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan. He received his bachelor’s degrees in history and economics/business administration from Bethel and his master’s and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Notre Dame.

Through his research and work as a teaching economist, Dr. Harder has achieved significant recognition. His academic specialization in global economic and social change, especially as it relates to developing countries and to environmental issues, prompted nearly five years of research and service in international settings, including Kenya, Tanzania, Bangladesh and India. He currently serves as an organizational consultant for the global leadership of Mennonite World Conference.

Dr. Harder is the author of chapters in four edited volumes, and his writing has been published in numerous periodicals. Speaking engagements have regularly taken him to locations in both the U.S. and Canada.

President Harder has been active in the state-wide leadership of Ohio’s private colleges and universities, including serving as a member of the Executive Committee of the Ohio Foundation for Independent Colleges. In addition, he has served in a variety of roles with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  He currently serves on the board of the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce. 

He is married to Dr. Karen Klassen Harder, a professor of economics and business at Bluffton University. They reside in Bluffton and have two adult children.


There will be a retirement reception/open house for Dr. James M. Harder, president, 3-4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5, in Yoder Recital Hall lobby.

Dr. James M. Harder