A Fighter To The End: The Remarkable Life and Career Of Laura Jane Harper

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Virginia Tech

This study is an investigation of Dr. Laura Jane Harper's tenure, achievements, and contributions to Virginia Tech from 1949-1980. Throughout Virginia Tech's history, examples of leadership, scholarship, and service have been recorded about students, faculty, and administrators; however, female administrators are overlooked in these collections. Using archival and interview data collection techniques and historical biographical methods, we will examine Harper's influences to the profession, significant contributions in the areas of scholarship, administration, and as a mentor for minorities and women.

Harper was born on August 18, 1914 in Jackson, Mississippi. She attended and graduated from Belhaven College in 1934 with a bachelor degree, a master of science degree in 1948 from the University of Tennessee, and a doctorate in 1956 from Michigan State University. From 1960 until 1964, she served as dean of the School of Home Economics for both Radford College (now known as Radford University) and VPI (now know as Virginia Tech). After 1964, Harper continued to serve as the Dean of the Home Economics College at VPI with additional responsibilities until her retirement in 1980. During Harper's tenure she touched the lives of many and made several contributions to the institution in which she was employed. Harper worked at Virginia Tech as a professor, researcher, department head, and dean for over 31 years in the home economics discipline; however, the legacy she left continues.

home economics, historical educational biography, educators, pioneering women, female deans, Harper, women leaders at Virginia Tech