Someone must dream dreams and see visions before an institution becomes a reality. The first to dream seriously about a Bible Training School for young women in the Philippines was the Rev. Homer Stuntz, first Methodist Mission Superintendent. In 1903, the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States heard the challenge and sent Miss Winifred Spaulding, who was then principal of the Kansas City Training School, in Kansas City, Missouri. Miss Spaulding stayed in the Philippines for less than two years to guide the Bible Training School. In 1905, Miss Marguerite M. Decker became the director of the institution until her retirement in 1938.
In 1906, the school was named Harris Memorial Bible Training School, after Mr. Norman Dwight Harris of Chicago, who provided the necessary funds that enabled the school to continue its ministry, with the support of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society. In 1938, Ms. Mary Evans became its director until her retirement in 1951. Dr. Prudencia L. Fabro became the first Filipino to head the school and served until 1978.
In 1922, Harris pioneered in early childhood education by being the first school in the country to set up a kindergarten school. In 1968, it gained the distinction of being the first school to offer a course in Kindergarten leading to a government-recognized degree. In the following year, the curriculum was revised and updated for recognition by the Bureau of Private Schools. The name of the college was then changed to Harris Memorial College.
Majority of the students at Harris Memorial College are young women from The United Methodist Church in the Philippines, who are preparing for consecration as deaconesses. Harris also opens its door to a wider clientele. Students and graduates include persons from the United Church of Christ, IEMELIF, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal and Christian Fellowship Groups. Students have come from other countries like Japan, Okinawa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Taiwan, India, Sarawak, and Myanmar.
In 1969 and 1970, respectively, government-recognized degrees of Bachelor of Kindergarten Education and Bachelor of Arts major in Christian Education were conferred on graduates.
It was during the time of Dr. Fabro in 1975, that the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church donated the Taft Avenue property to the Board of Trustees of Harris Memorial College. Henceforth, Harris became Harris Memorial College Development Center for Women, Inc.
In April 1978, leadership transition took place upon the retirement of Dr. Fabro. The Board of Trustees elected Miss Zenaida P. Lumba to succeed Dr. Fabro. Since the former was finishing her Doctor of Education degree in the United States, Mrs. Virginia Maniti-Williams and Mrs. Remedios Asencio-Velasco were appointed by said Board as Officers-in-Charge at Harris.
Dr. Zenaida P. Lumba finally assumed the presidency in 1981. Since 1984, the Bachelor of Arts, major in Christian Education (ABCE), the Bachelor of Kindergarten Education (BKE) and the Early Childhood Education programs of the College have been accredited by the Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP) through the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities –Accrediting Agency, Inc. (ACSCU-AAI).
Under Dr. Lumba’s leadership, Harris purchased a 1.5 hectare of land in Dolores, Taytay, Rizal in 1983, with the seed money donated by Rev. Dr. Grace E. Huck. The first building, which was begun in 1986, is a three-story student dormitory named after Rev. Huck. The Martha and Clarence Jones Hall, housing the administrative and faculty offices, classrooms, the library, science laboratory, medical-dental clinic, and conference room were completed in 1988.
Harris moved to its new site in Taytay for the opening of classes in June 1988. By June 1989, the Brigida G. Fernando Early Childhood Education Building was ready for use. A Faculty-Staff Townhouse was completed in 1991. The Bishop Jose L. Valencia Chapel cum Kihwa Jin Music Hall was finished and inaugurated on October 18, 1996. The College Gymnasium and the Elementary School Building were finished in 1998 and 2000, respectively. In 2003, the High School Building was dedicated.
Harris is continually challenged to meet the pressing needs of the church and the country for quality and relevant education. In response, Harris expanded its program offerings. In 1992, the Bachelor of Arts in Church Music gained full recognition from the Department of Education, culture and Sports, now Department of Education, while the Bachelor of Elementary Education and Secondary Education were granted government permit to operate in 1993. In 1998, the two teacher education programs gained government recognition from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
Similarly, the Elementary department of Harris started to operate in 1994 and was granted government recognition in 1999, while the High School department began in 2000 and gained government recognition in 2004.
In addition to these curricular offerings, the school strengthened the Institute for Non-formal Education with three distinct programs namely: Center for Community Development (CCD), the Doris Lou Willis Center for Early Childhood Education (DLWCECE), and the Center for Christian Education and Discipleship (CCED). It is now named Center for Extension Services and Development (CESDev).
Rev. Dr. Judith M. Bunyi, elected in 2000, was the first clergy person to head Harris Memorial College and the third Filipino president. She led Harris on its continuing journey to press on toward the attainment of its vision, mission, goals and objectives until 2005.
In 2003, Harris reached its centennial year of ministry.The theme for this historic event was “Celebrating A Century Of God’s Faithfulness: Harris Memorial College and the Deaconess.” Over the years, graduates in the church-degree program were consecrated and commissioned as deaconesses and serve local churches in the following ministries: Christian education, children and youth, kindergarten education, music, women’s ministries, and curriculum writing among others. Other graduates were/are on special appointments, serving in various teaching, administrative, extension, ecumenical, and justice ministries, either on the local, national, or international level. Some have worked as staff members of United Methodist general agencies or faculty-staff on UMC-related institutions.
Dr. Liwliwa T. Robledo, Harris alumna (Class 1963), the former Dean of Academic Affairs of the institution, and the author of the Harris Memorial College Centennial Book launched in 2003, was appointed the 4th Filipino President after Dr. Bunyi finished her term in 2005. She broke the tradition of single deaconesses to head the institution by being the first married deaconess to assume the office. Through her leadership, major upgrading and renovation of physical facilities as well as the upgrading of the curricular offerings were carried out. In 2005, the five year BKE degree began.
In 2006, the Fabro Harris Seminar House in the first floor of the Huck Hall, financed by the Women’s Division General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) was dedicated. In 2006 and 2007, the bathrooms in the dormitory were renovated and the dormitory hall and rooms were re-painted. The grant for the construction was again given by the GBGM.
In 2007, the century-old dormitory food services was phased out and three food concessionaires began to serve the students, faculty, and staff.
In 2008, Dr. Cristina N. Mañabat was elected by the BOT as the 5th President of the institution with a term of five years. In her investiture address, she expressed her dream of Harris to be a mission-driven academic community serving the least, the last, and the lost for the glory of God.