James "Buck" Harless has consistently supported and encouraged the initiatives of the June Harless Center for Rural Educational Research and Development named in honor of June Montgomery Harless, one of southern West Virginia’s most avid supporters of education and medical research. The educational support has been enhanced with the addition of the Hallie Harless Distinguished Teacher Award honoring outstanding southern West Virginia educators.
Buck Harless was truly an iconic individual in West Virginia. He made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of individuals and families. His sphere of influence was not limited to finance, politics or entrepreneurship. His greatest influence was in the area of education. He understood that the economic gap that we see in West Virginia could best be narrowed by education. Buck was a “bridge builder,” who built bridges for individuals so they could journey from where they are to where they could be. Buck used his wealth and influence to assist the children of West Virginia to see the potential that abides in them and to provide them a “bridge” (educational opportunities) that helped them to never settle for anything less than their best. A quote by Kurt Hahn, founder of Outward Bound exemplifies Buck’s belief, “There is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.” That is the mantra of the Harless Center Staff members as we reach out to WV students and teachers with professional development and programming that Buck supported through the fourteen years of our partnership.
The mission of the June Harless Center for Rural Educational Research and Development, which reflects the philosophy of the Harless family, is to provide leadership in educational initiatives for West Virginia educators and students. As a result of Buck’s vision the Harless Center provides educators and families of rural West Virginia with a support system that addresses educational issues, sustains school improvement, and provides positive growth in all educational factors. Among the current initiatives of the Harless Center are the MU Early Education STEM Center, the partnership with Cabell County to develop the Expeditionary Learning Incubator School, summer camps, and the CREATE Satellite Lab. The Center provides statewide professional development in school reform, standards-based mathematics, best practices in literacy, place-based instruction, and hands-on science and robotics. The Harless Center is actively involved in facilitating the transitioning of schools to 21st century teaching and learning through the Harless Retrofit Process. Another current initiative is the “Flip the Classroom” project in which teachers receive professional development in how to utilize technology tools and engaging activation to improve student achievement via a different educational delivery format.
We will always be grateful to Buck for making our work possible. The passing of Buck Harless on January 1, 2014 strengthens our resolve to make a positive difference in the West Virginia educational community in his honor. We will miss Buck as a friend, mentor and an example of what true service really means, but we are committed to continuing our work in his memory.