Virginia Harger was born on August 5, 1912 in Spokane, Washington. She attended Lewis and Clark High school and then earned her bachelor’s degree in dietetics and food service management from Washington State University. Harger participated in an internship at a Seattle hospital in 1935 before landing her first job as a dietician at the University of Nevada, Reno. She later transferred to Kansas State University where she worked as a graduate assistant while earning her master’s degree. Harger then worked as a professor at Ohio University for five years, teaching courses in institution management, administration in dietetics, and the organization and management of food services. After her work at OU, she moved to Stanford University.
When the Stanford Dietetics department was abolished by the university, Harger joined the Army. She finished her basic training at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Washington, and was assigned to a hospital in Van Nuys, California. She left the Army after the end of World War II and went to work for the American Dietetic Association in Chicago until her friend and colleague LeVelle Wood asked her to come teach institution management at Ohio State University. Harger accepted the offer and stayed from 1948 to 1967. In 1967 she was offered a professorship at Oregon State University, where she remained until her retirement in 1978.
Harger was an elected officer and member of the Board of Directors of the American Dietetic Association. She received a Meritorious Service Award from the students at Ohio State University in 1966 as well as the first Award of Merit from the Oregon Dietetic Association in 1983. Harger and her colleagues LeVelle Wood and Bessie B. West authored a groundbreaking institution management textbook titled Food Service in Institutions. After her retirement in 1978, Harger became a professor Emeritus at Oregon State University and, in 2000, moved back to her hometown to be close to her family.
Harger lived to be 102 years old, passing away on October 15, 2014.