ASU Lauds Harpers with Honorary Doctorates

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ASU Lauds Harpers with Honorary Doctorates


Published: 10.19.2007

Charlotte, N.C., October 19, 2007 - In a dramatic surprise at the end of an address to leaders of the flexo industry, Dr. Kenneth Peacock, Chancellor of Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., presented each Ron and Katherine Harper, retired founders of global anilox supplier Harper Corporation of America, with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

"Ron and Katherine Harper demonstrate every day the characteristics we strive to instill in our graduates: a love of lifelong learning, dedication to providing service to others, and a commitment to excellence in their professional and personal lives," Peacock said. "It is with great pleasure and pride that Appalachian State University and its Board of Trustees present honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees to both Ron and Katherine." Stunned and emotional, the Harpers rose to receive the honor as the room erupted in a standing ovation.

"Before he spoke, I asked Ken not to say anything that would make me cry," said a beaming Mr. Harper, "But he did anyway. This is the greatest honor we've ever received. Thank you so much."

"It's unbelievable!" exclaimed Mrs. Harper. "Ron and I are so surprised and grateful."

Peacock explained that the honorary doctorate of humane letters is the highest tribute a university can confer: Nominees must be approved by the school's Board of Governors, its Board of Trustees, the university's chancellor and the president of the North Carolina University System. Dr. Mark Estepp, former dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts at Appalachian, nominated the Harpers for their longtime support of education, contributions to society and innovation in business.

The Harpers are legendary in the flexography industry for their philanthropy in flexo education. Appalachian State University has benefited significantly from the couple's time, expertise and resources: Katherine Harper is a former member of Appalachian's Graphic Arts and Imaging Technology Advisory Board, as well as the Appalachian State University Foundation Board of Directors. ASU's flexography program received the Harpers' assistance with acquiring its first flexo press, and a financial gift from the couple created the Harper Flexographic Museum, which chronicles the history of this unique printing process. Most recently, Ron Harper presented a generous gift to the school's foundation to honor his wife. This gift will support the school's flexography program, student scholarships and other needs of the Department of Technology. To honor the Harpers' support, ASU dedicated Katherine Harper Hall last April.

The couple's dedication and generosity for education stretches back nearly two decades. Harper Corporation was the first to participate in the FTA's Flexo In High Schools/Colleges program, which was initiated in 1990 and saw the first flexographic press installed in a high school in 1992. Today high schools and colleges across the U.S. and Canada - and even Argentina - have flexo programs based on this early program to provide hands-on training for young people interested in pursuing careers in flexography.

The Phoenix Challenge Foundation, a group of dedicated volunteers who work with high schools and colleges to promote and expand excellence in flexo education, is an organization long supported by the Harpers with time and funding. This year, in cooperation with Ron Harper, the Phoenix Challenge Foundation created the Katherine Harper Teachers Education Fund to further the education of high school and college flexography instructors.

In addition to Katherine Harper Hall at ASU, the Harper National Flexographic Center and the Harper Campus at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte were named in honor of the Harpers for their contributions to the school's various programs. Katherine Harper has served on the Central Piedmont Community College Foundation Board of Directors. The Harpers also have left their mark on education through support of numerous other programs throughout the United States and Canada that are related to flexography, including the Harper Endowment at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo; the Harper Scholarship Fund at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis.; and the Harper Wall at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, Minn. The pair's contributions to society are not limited to education. On May 1, 2007, the Greater Carolinas Red Cross officially dedicated the Katherine Harper Disaster Staging Area in Charlotte. The Harpers have been supporters of the American Red Cross for many years, and provided funds for the creation of the staging area. It furnishes 2,000 square feet of multi-use space for storing, loading and deploying disaster equipment and supplies, and improves response time to area citizens in crisis. For her generosity and commitment to community service and philanthropy, Katherine Harper was recently selected as Charlotte's 2007 Woman of Spirit.

Hard work and initiative have created great business success for the Harpers. Over the years, the couple has established three successful companies. Thirty-six years ago, the couple founded Ron Harper Associates Ltd., forerunner to global anilox supplier Harper Corporation of America. Imagination, innovation and ingenuity have driven the organization's growth ever since. It was the first company to develop and successfully market ceramic-coated anilox roll technology, beginning in early 1972. Then in 1990, Harper Corporation introduced the 60-degree-angle hexagonal laser-engraved cell, which quickly established a new global standard for anilox rolls. This technology enabled anilox line count to leap from a conventional high of 600 cells per linear inch to 2,000 and beyond in recent years, helping flexographers readily compete in the offset and gravure printing markets. The Harpers co-founded Harper/Love Adhesive Corporation in 1978 as a join venture of Harper Corporation of America and N.B. Love Industries of Sydney, Australia. The company specializes in innovative, specially blended adhesive products for the corrugated box industry with an emphasis on substrates that are challenging to bond.

And in 1981, Ron and Katherine launched Harper Machinery Corporation, a company devoted to helping the corrugated industry increase production and improve product quality with designs to modify or supplement existing equipment. The Harpers sold the company in 1989. Ron and Katherine Harper created a guiding philosophy for their business enterprises, and extended it to their lives: "Focus only on making a profit and we will struggle. Focus on doing the right things consistently every day for our customers, our employees and our community, and success will follow." The philosophy has served them well.

For further information, please contact Jazmin Kluttz at 704-588-3371 or [email protected].

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