Harper's community spirit inspires $1M donation
Inspire is an appropriate name for the Harper College Educational Foundation's new $30 million scholarship fundraising campaign.
It captures how Harper's students, employees and community inspired the Shida family to give a $1 million gift to the foundation, establishing an endowed scholarship fund that will assist so many students with their financial needs.
Mitsuzo and Kyoko Shida raised three children -- Mina, Miho and Yuzo, now all adults -- in North Barrington. When eldest daughter Mina Fey reminisces about being raised in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, she thinks about a nice place to grow up with a supportive community. She reflects upon how Harper College was a major resource for this community.
"We were fortunate to have a nice childhood, thanks to my parents, but also to the community," Fey said. "We value what Harper does. Looking back, it was always there for us and the community where we grew up."
Mitsuzo and Kyoko had first settled in Brooklyn after emigrating from Japan in the late 1950s, so Mitsuzo could earn his Ph.D. in polymer science. In the '60s, plastics were a frontier in consumer science. Mitsuzo's work in this field moved the family to the Chicago area where, as a scientist, he created polymer applications for packaging we now take for granted, including adhesives for plastic films in various consumer products. He amassed more than 50 patents.
Fey says she didn't fully appreciate her father's innovations growing up. "He was just a good, strict, dad."
After Mitsuzo passed away a few years ago, Kyoko and her children sought to give back to the community that had given them so much. Harper was an obvious choice.
Although none of the Shida children attended Harper full-time, Fey took a course during a summer home from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her sister Miho did art therapy volunteer work with disabled adults at the college.
"It's pretty amazing that one school can satisfy so many different needs for so many different people," said Fey, referencing how many educational avenues and resources are available at Harper. "We thought, 'What better way to give back than to give to a place that gives back to the community?'"
That's why Kyoko and her children created the Shida Family Endowed Scholarship, with the goal of helping students with great financial need. In honor of the family's generosity and Mitsuzo's scientific contributions, Harper will name Building Z the Shida Family Science Building.
The family came to campus last fall and Fey said they were inspired by Harper's passionate faculty and staff, as well as the great facilities.
The Shida Family scholarship also was designed to encourage applicants who aren't eligible for federal aid due to citizenship status, a detail important to Miho because of her nonprofit work with Latinx youth. In addition, the scholarship gives preference to those who demonstrate community involvement.
"Education and effort are core values that have been instilled in our family," Fey said. "These students are facing such adversity in their lives, yet they want to rise above that adversity to try to better themselves. We think that deserves to be recognized."
The Harper College Educational Foundation launched the $30 million INSPIRE Scholarship Campaign to raise scholarship funds for Harper students to minimize financial barriers to a Harper College education, expand access at Harper and beyond, and support career development.
Learn more about INSPIRE at www.harpercollege.edu/foundation.