Collegiate Times, December 5, 1977

New Dormitory Honors Former Female Dean

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors named a new dormitory for the late Laura Jane Harper in recognition of her long years of service to Tech and her involvement in establishing quality programs for women.

The future residence hall on West Campus Drive, named Harper Hall, is "an enduring tribute to Dean Emeritus Laura Jane Harper, a true pioneer, educator, and leader with remarkable vision who profoundly influenced the course of education at Virginia Tech, leaving a legacy of equal educational opportunity for all," read the resolution.

Construction on the new dormitory, between Cochrane and Engel Halls and across the street from Wallace Hall, is slated to begin in Spring 1998 and expected to be completed for the Fall 1999 semester.

Professor and Dean Emeritus Laura Jane Harper served Tech for many years, including a distinguished 20 year tenure as dean of what was then called the College of Home Economics, now the College of Human Resources and Education.

Harper was the first woman academic dean at Tech.

Harper began her career at the university in 1949 as an associate professor teaching foods and nutrition. In 1960 Harper was named dean of the College of Home Economics. She was named professor and dean emeritus in 1980 upon retirement.

"When I first became a dean in 1990, I was told by other deans when voting on issues to 'follow Dean Harper's lead. You can't go wrong." I did and she wasn't," said university President Paul Torgersen. At the beginning of her career at Tech, Harper had joint responsibilities for her home economics programs both at Tech and at Radford College, which was then the women's division of Tech, and over time she guided the dissolution of this arrangement with Radford College so that women would have equal opportunities at both institutions.

"Laura Jane Harper was not only a role model for many women educators, but a scholar in her own right," said Peggy Meszaros, university provost and senior vice president. "She paved the way for so many women at Tech that one need not look far in any direction to find her impact on campus life."

Harper aided in recruiting the first male students and faculty into home economics program, arranged for the first woman to be commissioned in the ROTC program at Tech and developed the first college and career guidance programs and one of the earliest study abroad programs at the university.

Harper sat on the committee to plan Women's Week programs and also on the Women's Network Advisory Committee.

Harper worked with and researched for Virginia Cooperative Extension and, while dean, served concurrently from 1964 to 1974 as assistant director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station in charge of home economics research.

Harper received a bachelor's degree from Belhaven College, a master degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. She did post-graduate work at Cornell University and Tech.
Last updated July 14, 1998