W. James Harper

Obituary
  • "Remembering Jim as Christmas arrives Downunder where he and..."
  • "Jim Harper changed my path in life. He taught, challenged..."
    - Stephen French
  • "I had the great fortune to be "adopted" by Jim and Eloise..."
    - David McConachie
  • "I had the privilege of working with Jim over 4 New Zealand..."
    - David Illingworth
  • "I was a grad student of Dr. Harper's in the late 70s and..."
    - Tom Foegle

Harper W. James Harper, 91, passed away on Saturday, July 12, 2014 at the Friendship Village of Dublin Health Center near his home in Columbus, Ohio. He was preceded in death by his first wife Eloise Harper and his two brothers, Claude Jr and Bob. He is survived by his second wife, Helen Harper; his sons, Kenn and Scott; his daughter, Virginia Harper; his daughters-in-law, Lucy and Pam; two grandchildren, Jason and Rebecca Harper; and two great-grandchildren, Calvin and Quincy Harper; and over a 150 graduate students. Jim started at Purdue University in 1941 where he was a member of the Alpha Gama Rho fraternity. In 1943 he was called to active duty. After serving in the United States Army in World War II, where he received the Purple Heart, Jim graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. (1946) and from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a PhD (1949). His career in teaching and research in food science encompassed over 70 years starting with an undergraduate research project in 1942 at Purdue and lasting until his death leaving a book chapter partially finished. (see http://tinyurl.com/k3a2tuc for his 2010 autobiography of his journey in science). The quality of his research was repeatedly recognized nationally and internationally with awards such as the American Dairy Science Association Borden Award for Dairy Foods Research (1958) and the Institute of Food Technologists' Stephen S. Chang Award for flavor research (1999). He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1966), and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. In 2014 he received an honorary Doctorate in Agriculture from Purdue University. Jim was also a remarkable teacher as indicated by three teaching awards including the Outstanding Teaching Award from the College of Food Agriculture and Environmental Science (1997). His graduate students have painted a very glowing picture of him as a teacher and for his ability to prepare them for their future. One ex-student told Jim that he hated one of Jim's courses but that he had been able to parlay what he had learned into a Vice-presidency in a leading corporation. Other students have stated that being known as one of Jim Harper's students had a significant cachet. The majority of Jim's professional career was spent as professor at the Ohio State University. He began in 1949 as an assistant professor in the Department of Dairy Technology and became a Full Professor in 1961. In 1981, Jim retired, was granted Professor Emeritus status, and moved to New Zealand to head up a group of researchers working on a whey protein concentrate program at the New Zealand Dairy Research Institute (NZDRI). They developed technologies that still bring in more than a billion dollars a year to New Zealand. In 1986 Jim returned to the United States where he worked as a consultant in the dairy and food industry. NZDRI, New Zealand Milk Products in Santa Rosa, CA, and the Wisconsin Dairy Research Center were among his clients. In 1992 he was asked to return to OSU to teach two core classes and in 1993 was offered the J.T. "Stubby Parker" Endowed Chair in Dairy Foods with initial research focusing on functional properties of dairy foods. After 20 years of research, teaching and graduating a whole new crop of graduate students, Jim retired for a 4th time in August of 2013. However, retirement looked rather like pre-retirement since he was still teaching, running a grant funded lab, and going into work five days a week. Jim had many hobbies such as fishing, camping, writing poetry, and painting, but his interest in orchids became a major part of his life growing from a few plants on the kitchen windowsill to several thousand in greenhouses. In addition to buying and trading for orchids, he traveled to many parts of the world to collect orchids including Mexico and Papua New Guinea. He is past president of the Central Ohio Orchid Society and currently on the board of directors as well as a qualified America Orchid Society judge. He will be deeply missed for his warmth, "cute smile and laugh," for his enthusiasm for teaching, research and students, and for many great conversations. Jim's life will be celebrated at a memorial service and reception on Saturday, August 2 from 2-4 p.m. at the Ohio State University Faculty Club, 181 South Oval Dr., Columbus, OH 43210 (http://tinyurl.com/d4urzl6). In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to a or in his memory to: the ; Eloise B. Harper Scholarship Fund in Food Science and Technology.


Published in The Columbus Dispatch on July 19, 2014
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