James N. Harger ’80
Jim Harger recently attended his son’s graduation from Rice University and is putting his daughter through her sophomore year at Chapman University. He feels so blessed to be able to afford the college expenses for his children and understands the importance of giving back to his alma mater. Jim said, “Today, a UCLA education costs more than 10 times what my parents spent on me in the late ‘70s – a stretch for most families, especially for those who are funding two or more college tuitions at the same time. So knowing that my endowment will help make it a little easier for some UCLA engineers in perpetuity is very fulfilling.”
I have been in the energy business all my life; the majority has been spent marketing natural gas as an alternative fuel for diesel and gasoline powered vehicles. In 1997, I resigned from the Southern California Gas Company to join Pickens Fuel Corp. I was the company’s second employee, and moving to Pickens turned out to be the smartest decision I made during my career. Over the next 18 years, we overcame several obstacles, persuaded many of the country’s largest fleets to use natural gas, took the company public as Clean Energy (CLNE) and became North America’s leader in clean transportation.
I was drawn to UCLA because of its worldwide academic reputation and proximity to my home in Manhattan Beach. I also wanted a large university experience that included athletics and social life. I joined the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where I made life-long friends and still participate as a board member today. UCLA provided it all – and at a price that was a bargain by today’s standards.
Although the UCLA Engineering program was rigorous, it taught me discipline and time management – traits that made me a successful businessman. I made many friends with both students and professors.
My father often reminded me to “never forget those who gave you the skills to succeed.” I also worked with T. Boone Pickens, one of the America’s most successful entrepreneurs and philanthropists. He and my father are from the same generation and share many of the same philosophies. As a result, when UCLA approached me to consider an endowment, I knew it was time.