Sixty years ago, Harbert Hills Academy was founded by William E. Patterson, who as a young man had attended Fletcher Academy, which had a program he envisioned replicating someday. After retiring from the Federal Government, Mr. Patterson worked at Madison College and received some encouragement to fulfill his dream to start a school which would include the medical work, agriculture and education. His research led him to Hardin County, which was one of several area counties with no Seventh-day Adventists.
The corporation, formed in August, 1951, was organized in December, 1951. Shortly after that, in February, 1952, the local judge, Mr. Perry Harbert, donated the property for the school; thus the name Harbert Hills Academy. The school property consisted totally of woods, so before school could start, a lot of work had to be done to clear land and construct several buildings.
In the fall of 1956, Louie and Geraldine Dickman and David and Ruth Patterson moved from Madison College to Harbert Hills, bringing with them Louie’s and David’s piano rebuilding business to help support the school. Until 1972, the Harbert Hills rebuilt pianos were sold all over the United States.
The Harbert Hills Academy nursing home opened in 1958 with a license for 3 residents; now it is a five-star-rated, 49-bed facility. Adjacent to the nursing home, a beautiful adult daycare facility has recently been under construction and is nearing completion.
Albert Nielsen pioneered the radio work at Harbert Hills during the 1970s, which resulted in the school’s obtaining a license for a 100,000-watt FM radio station, WDNX. In 1998, the opportunity arose for the station to affiliate with Adventist-owned and operated LifeTalk Radio. Since then, they have provided most of the programming that WDNX broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
An affiliation was established with the 1000 Missionary Movement North America in 2010. Harbert Hills Academy now manages and conducts the training program for 1000 MMNA each summer. This includes a four week training program and then eleven months of service somewhere around the world for each missionary.
The academy curriculum is based on the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, and includes medical work (the students work at the nursing home), agriculture (the students have classroom training and hands-on experience on the school farm), and education (grades 1 through 12). Each day consists of half a day of classroom time and half a day of work. Included in the overall program are health and physical education training and activities, worships, chapel and vespers services, outreach and recreational activities. On Fridays, the students attend vocational classes, such as radio broadcasting, woodworking, auto mechanics, food service, sewing, and graphic design.
The ensemble and the school’s choral groups provide area churches with uplifting music and testimonies for their divine worship services. This combination of music and ministry brings additional spiritual vitality into the overall school program.
Opportunity is made available each year for the senior class members to participate in a special mission trip. About half of these trips take place within the United States while the other half are outside the country. The students usually return with a better understanding of other people’s lives, often commenting on how happy the people are in spite of their poor living conditions.
Harbert Hills Academy is blessed to have students coming from many other countries to receive a well-rounded education in a healthy, Christian environment. The school’s goal is to provide a high-quality, Christ-centered education to those willing to work and to study. Currently, Harbert Hills has young people enrolled from about 7 countries outside North America.
God has provided bountiful blessings to sustain Harbert Hills Academy, its students and its staff. In this uplifting environment, young people are trained to be effective workers and witnesses for Christ. Through Christ’s transforming power, they learn to focus on others’ needs, on things which matter for eternity and which will bring true joy and happiness.