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Laura J. Harper, PhD

Laura Jane Harper (left) with Maude Wallace.
Laura Jane Harper (left) with Maude Wallace.

Professor and Dean Emerita of the College of Home Economics

Laura Jane Harper (1914-1996) was born in Jackson, Mississippi and received her bachelor's degree from Belhaven College in 1934, her Master of Science degree from the University of Tennessee in 1948, and her Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1956.

Harper joined the faculty of Virginia Tech's Department of Home Economics in 1949 as an associate professor teaching foods and nutrition, taking an educational leave in 1951 to pursue her doctorate. She returned to the university as a full professor where she resumed teaching and completed her dissertation. During her career, she taught graduate and undergraduate nutrition courses and conducted research for the Virginia Agricultural Experimental Station. Her research focused on food habits, food and culture, nutrition in international development, and nutrient metabolism.

In 1960, Harper was named dean of the College of Home Economics, which became later part of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Harper was a world-renowned nutritionist and equal rights activist. She secured approval to build Wallace Hall, and she was named professor and dean emerita in 1980 upon her retirement, the same year she gave Virginia Tech's Founder’s Day address. Harper continued to champion the rights of women in higher education after her retirement. Harper Hall is named for her.

During Harper's tenure she touched the lives of many.