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Honoring the History & Legacy of BakerRipley’s Harbach Campus

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As we turn the page on a significant chapter in Houston's history, it is with a blend of respect and reflection that we announce the closure of BakerRipley's Harbach Campus, a beacon of hope and progress for an impressive 65 years.

Named after the visionary Franklin I. Harbach, the Harbach Campus has stood not just as a physical space, but as a symbol of community, inclusion, and transformative change. Harbach, who took the reins of what was then known as the Neighborhood Center Association (later renamed BakerRipley), steered the organization with a foresight and determination that reshaped the social fabric of Houston.

Harbach, a man of vision, left an indelible mark on the city of Houston. Born in 1903 in Bernville, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Harbach’s journey took him from the Henry Street Settlement House in New York to the heart of Houston. It was here that he became a pivotal figure in addressing social divides and fostering community spirit.

Harbach’s tenure at Ripley House, starting in 1943, was marked by challenges and triumphs. He pioneered integration efforts in a time of deep-seated segregation, bringing Hispanic social workers from South America to showcase their skills and challenge prevailing stereotypes. His approach was both revolutionary and heartfelt, extending beyond professional boundaries to genuine care for every individual he encountered.

“Franklin Harbach was a man of vision and, at the same time, eminently practical. His contribution to the development and the delivery of social services in Houston, as well as his influence on the thinking of professionals who worked with him and the people whose lives he touched, is immeasurable.” – Tribute by the Philosophical Society of Texas

The Harbach Campus itself, a vibrant hub for education, social work, and community activities, mirrored Harbach’s own ethos. It has operated as a charter school, community center, community garden, senior center, youth programs and more, adapting to the evolving needs of Houstonians. Through wars, civil unrest, pandemics, and natural disasters, the Harbach Campus has stood as an unwavering pillar of support and growth.

The closure of the Harbach Campus is more than the end of an era. It’s a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come and the journey ahead. The campus may close, but the legacy of Franklin I. Harbach and the values he instilled in BakerRipley will continue to resonate.

As we bid farewell to the physical space of the Harbach Campus, we carry forward the spirit it embodied – a commitment to community, a dedication to progress, and a relentless pursuit of a more inclusive and equitable society. In remembering Franklin Harbach and the Harbach Campus, we reaffirm our mission to inspire and enable all Houstonians to reach their fullest potential.

The story of the Harbach Campus is one of resilience, adaptability, and profound impact. As we close this chapter, we are reminded of Harbach’s own words: “To act as a catalyst for change.” In honoring his memory and the center named after him, we pledge to continue being a force for positive change in our community.

Franklin I. Harbach, his vision, and the Harbach Campus have left an indelible mark on Houston. As we move forward, we carry with us the lessons learned, the lives touched, and the community spirit that has been the hallmark of BakerRipley.

Thank you, Franklin I. Harbach, and thank you, BakerRipley Harbach Campus, for 65 years of unwavering service, inspiration, and hope.