The Commercial Appeal
RESIDENTS RECALL MEMPHIS SCHOOLS’ LUNCHTIME FARE
Former MUS student’s gift honors teacher John Harkins
Though he is the former COO of the startup company PayPal and founding CEO of the enterprise social network service Yammer, David O. Sacks still recalls the impact of his first managerial venture — serving as student editor of the Memphis University School yearbook, “The Owl.” He also remembers the influence of his faculty adviser and mentor, Dr. John E. Harkins.
“I can count on one hand the number of people who have made as significant a contribution to my own life as he has,” Sacks said. “His unwavering support, encouragement and guidance helped give me the confidence to lead not just that endeavor but large creative enterprises to come.”
Thanks to a donation from Sacks, a 1990 graduate of MUS, the school’s archives are now the Harkins Archives, named in honor of a teacher who helped lay the groundwork for the tech entrepreneur’s later success.
“Looking back, these experiences were remarkably similar,” Sacks said. “I guess there’s a reason they call it a preparatory school — it actually prepares you for life, often in ways that are not apparent at the time. That’s why teachers like Dr. Harkins are so important.”
At a dedication ceremony in the Joseph R. Hyde Jr. Library Learning Center in May, family and friends gathered to celebrate Harkins’ contributions during 30 years at MUS, including his role as a history instructor, chairman of the History Department, Ross M. Lynn Chair of History, author of the “MUS Century Book” (August House, 1993) and now school archivist and historian.
“The very same characteristics that made John an excellent teacher and faculty member — his intellectual honesty, his insatiable desire to learn, his willingness to put the school above his personal interests, his great knowledge of history and his collegiality — make him an excellent archivist, as well,” MUS headmaster Ellis Haguewood said.
Sacks, now based in San Francisco, was unable to attend the dedication, but he sent a letter expressing his sentiments, which Haguewood read to the gathering:
“Dr. Harkins once told me that MUS, history and his devoted wife, Georgia, are the three great passions of his life, and so the Harkins Archives represents two of these,” Sacks wrote. “I expect Georgia is present today to make it a hat trick.”
Through the Harkins Archives, the school collects and makes available to the community information about MUS students, alumni, faculty, trustees and patrons of the school. This includes school publications, as well as books by authors connected with the school, news clippings, photos, videos and scrapbook items. Community donations of school-related historical publications, photos and other artifacts are welcome, the archivist said.
Harkins currently is working on a second Memphis school chronicle, “A History of Lausanne Collegiate School, 1926-2013.” Among his many writings, he is the author of “Metropolis of the American Nile — An Illustrated History of Memphis and Shelby County” ( Windsor Publications, 1982) and “Historic Shelby County” (Historical Publishing Network, 2008), and he writes a column for “The Best Times,” a newsmagazine for Mid-South seniors. He was Memphis/Shelby County archivist from 1979-1985. A longtime member of the West Tennessee Historical Society, he served intermittently as president for 11 of the last 23 years. Liz Copeland is a communications specialist for Memphis University School.