Edith Hatcher, daughter of prominent Virginia clergyman and educator Dr. William E. Hatcher, was a talented concert pianist. In 1913, Edith Hatcher married Octavius Marvin Harcum. After the birth of their first child, Edith wrote "the concert career did not offer a chance for family stability" so they chose a venture that would combine "my talents as an educator and artist and his business vision and ability." They opened the Harcum Post Graduate School on October 1, 1915, in Melville Hall, with three students and five pianos. Edith's goal was to "start a school where the individual talent of each girl would be treated as an integral part of her education." Though her 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 students the skills needed for college study. It quickly grew, soon adding junior college-level courses. Soon, the "lower school" program was eliminated, and the junior college program was 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 tragically died 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, 1946-1947, when Dr. John Barber served as President.
In addition to Edith, one of the most important women in Harcum's history is Maud L. Marren. Marren was appointed Dean of the College in 1920 and was a central figure on campus until she retired 43 years later.
The College grew steadily through the 1930s and 1940s with a student enrollment of 185 in 1948. However, Harcum was a proprietary institution and faced financial difficulties. In 1952, it could no longer run as a profitable enterprise; Edith declared bankruptcy.
"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 Harcum, excerpt from an early Harcum commencement address, quoted in Harcum's 75th anniversary calendar.
The Junto Adult School was a non-profit educational corporation founded by Benjamin Franklin. It purchased the assets of Harcum for possible use as a residential college for adults but soon decided to continue Harcum's mission as a two-year college for women. Leadership was assumed by Mr. Philip Klein. In 1956, Pennsylvania granted Harcum permission to be the first junior college in the Commonwealth's history to confer the Associate of Arts and the Associate of Science degrees.
Tremendous building and expansion occurred in the 1960s under the direction of President Michael Duzy, with the addition of the Academic Center, Pennswood Hall, and Klein Hall. Five presidents have succeeded Dr. Duzy, yet the College's mission and purpose are essentially the same. In Mrs. Harcum's words, Harcum educates students in the arts and occupational skills, 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.