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Earl and Kay Harbaugh's Vision

Earl Harbaugh noticed something missing from his alma mater.
Earl and Kay Harbaugh wear their pride for what started as the “Farmers High School” during an appreciation event in October 2015. (Photo: Michael Houtz)

Earl and Kay Harbaugh wear their pride for what started as the “Farmers High School” during an appreciation event in October 2015. (Photo: Michael Houtz)

Earl Harbaugh, a 1961 graduate, founded five businesses and has supported the college for more than a decade.

Not long ago, he realized there was no way for students to study and learn how to be or think like an entrepreneur. No way to major or minor in entrepreneurship. No way in which students could immerse themselves in the process — unless they did it on their own, as he had when he raised and sold broiler chickens in his hometown of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, to help pay his way through college.

“The whole future of our economy rests on entrepreneurs and business development,” says Harbaugh, who started the first specialized dealership for Ditch Witch Midwest in Northern Illinois and went on to found four more companies.

He and his wife, Kay, who grew up in Erie, settled in St. Charles, Illinois.

“Pennsylvania is still where our roots are,” says Harbaugh. “We thought ‘How are we going to give back to this college?’ Our answer was E&I — building a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Soon, they established the Harbaugh Endowment for Entrepreneurship to host successful entrepreneurs on campus. The Harbaughs’ donations formed the backbone of what became the E&I Program. Everyone — from students to professors to administrators and alumni — can innovate, creating value, new enterprises, and new jobs, says Harbaugh, and their work can help solve big environmental problems.

“We’ve just begun to lift off,” says Harbaugh, assessing E&I’s initial accomplishments. “We’ve just begun to start because of the excitement of faculty, students, administration and stakeholders. We can be very pleased — but we’ve just begun.”