Harold B. Allen’s term as president was a short four years, but the National Farm School’s fourth leader had a big job steering the institution in a time of war.
Adopting the battle cry “To Farm is to Arm” of founder Joseph Krauskopf during World War I, Allen reported to the assemblage at the 1942 Victory Harvest Festival that, “The struggle now affects our every thought and action; it molds all of our policies; it has called to its ranks by enlistment and selection considerably over one hundred of our vigorous young men. It has sent them out to the far corners of the earth; it has already taken its toll of Farm School lives. As a result of this tragic trend, our resident student body has been decreased, our faculty reduced, and our workers in the office brought under an almost unbearable load.”
Despite the challenges, Allen viewed the school’s role in the war effort as crucial, shifting all available resources toward production of the wartime food and commodity needs of the country and practical training. In 1941-42, the school contributed more than 800,000 pounds of milk, 4,000 bushels of apples, 10,000 bushels of potatoes, 600,000 eggs, 750 tons of soybeans, 2,800 baskets of peaches and nearly 8,000 pounds of poultry meat.
Allen, the first president to reside full-time on campus, was also responsible for instituting evening defense courses in metal work and the repair of farm machinery for non-boarders.
In his 1943 commencement address, Allen announced his resignation, opting to engage in educational reconstruction work for the Iranian government. He told graduates that he hoped to have caught the “spirit of idealism of the founder of the school,” adding, “We have tried to carry a few steps upward and onward the message of love, hope, creative effort and human tolerance which was bequeathed to this school by Doctor Krauskopf.”
Allen was born in New York state and raised on a farm. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in 1922, followed by a master’s in 1928. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1937.
Prior to his presidency, he spent 12 years in Europe as educational director of an American organization, which was implementing American educational methods in other parts of the world—experience from which he drew for his Iranian post.