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ND grad to retire from Logan Center

Amanda Gray | Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dan Harshman first came to South Bend as a football recruit for Ara Parseghian in the fall of 1964 and played defensive back and running back for four years, including the 1966 national championship season.

But he returned to South Bend in 1976 in a role not related to Notre Dame athletics. Harshman began working at the Logan Center, a non-profit organization that provides resources for people with disabilities in the area.

“It was just by luck,” Harshman, who will retire from his position as president and CEO of the Logan Center in December, said. “We had friends in the South Bend area. I came looking for a job, and I was able to get one. … It’s been home ever since.”

Harshman became CEO in 1978 and said he has seen many events and developments in the past 33 years.

“So many parts have been rewarding,” he said. “Working with so many different people, from parents and children to even the great staff I work with every day — add up all of these people, and it’s been a great job.”

The Logan Center began in 1950, Harshman said. When the Center celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2010, the first board president returned.

“He’s 98 and living in Florida, but he came back and spoke,” Harshman said.

Harshman said a book written about the Center for its anniversary, titled “VOICE: Disability and Ability at LOGAN,” showed connections between Notre Dame and the Center. These include student volunteers through the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) and the involvement of University presidents.

“Notre Dame has had some wonderful leaders,” he said. “[University President Emeritus] Fr. [Theodore] Hesburgh even dressed up as Santa Claus one year for the kids.”

Under Harshman’s leadership, Notre Dame and the Logan Center have collaborated on many projects, including the National Center for Law and the Handicapped, the first legal advocacy center in the country, said Harshman.

“We’ve always had support from Notre Dame for what we’ve done,” he said. “The Center and the Notre Dame Law School came together [to assist Logan Center participants.]”

He also led the Logan Center during the 1987 International Summer Special Olympics, which were held at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.

“We had more than 4,000 athletes and 20,000 volunteers. It took a whole week,” he said. “It was a great sporting event and a great event for the community. Many say it was the greatest event between Notre Dame and the community. Notre Dame is an important and good friend to Logan.”

The job isn’t always easy, he said. Creating community awareness of issues pertaining to those with disabilities can be difficult sometimes.

“The hardest part of the job is dealing with state and federal funding,” he said. “It’s not just getting new funding, but dealing with the ups and downs of working with our current funding.”

Harshman said even though he is retiring soon, he still has much to do, including preparing for a new successor to the role of CEO. The current Board of Directors has put together a search committee, and he said a candidate might be selected as soon as next fall.

“[The search] is going well but it will take a while,” he said. “It takes an organization like this about a year to find someone. We’re lucky we have a good board.”

John Firth, chair of the Board of Directors and the search committee, said the planning for a new CEO is the most important thing any Board of Directors can do.

“We are mindful of the magnitude of the task before us and confident that we will find the ideal person to build upon the remarkable legacy Dan is leaving to all of us,” Firth said. “It is important to recognize the valuable contributions that Dan has made to this community. There are many families, individuals and business leaders who will tell you that our community is a better place because Dan Harshman has been such an effective leader for Logan.”

While Harshman said he is excited to spend more time with his family, he will miss the Logan Center.

“The exciting part is Logan’s future,” he said. “There’s a whole to-do list. It’s always a challenge of public awareness, but we’re finding even more opportunities [for the community to hear about Logan].

“We’ll keep people thinking about going forward.”