- October 26, 2010
CHARLOTTE, NC | Ron and Katherine Harper, of Harper Corp. of America, have been long-recognized for their generous support of education both on the local and national levels. The couple has given millions to education, including $2 million to Gaston County Schools to put interactive technology in all classrooms. The givers became receivers Monday when they were bestowed with the ‘Order of the Long Leaf Pine.’
The award is given to North Carolinians with a record of service to the state.
“In the case of the Harpers there was so much information about their contributions,” said Allison Stivender, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office.
The two were pioneers in their industry, said Gaston County Board of Education Chairwoman Annette Carter.
“What they say is if you focus only on making a profit, you’re going to struggle,” said Carter. “But if you focus on doing things right for your customers every day, success is sure to follow.”
The Harpers started their flexography business in Charlotte in 1971 with five children ranging in age from 10 to 17. In 1990, the Charlotte couple started thinking about how they could help education and teach students more about their industry.
They worked with a foundation and technical association in New York to start flexography printing programs in local high schools and colleges. They’ve made large donations to colleges like Appalachian State Univ., Clemson Univ., and Central Piedmont Community College.
The Harpers donated $73,000 to Kiser Elementary in Stanley for a technology lab to learn computer skills. The classroom has been dubbed the Katherine Harper Technology Lab. A soon-to-be-built park in Stanley, NC, bears the Harper name after the couple gave $55,000 to the project.
They gave the biggest gift in Gaston County Schools history when they donated $2 million to the district in May. That money came with a challenge to the school district to raise an additional $2 million to help put a SMART Board, an interactive white board, in every classroom.
Their goal in giving is to reduce the dropout rate, and Ron Harper says SMART Boards are one way to do that.
“We wanted to do something more,” Ron Harper said. “I personally do not think there is anything else that we could put into a schoolroom today regardless of cost—whether it’s less or more—that could improve education. As time goes on we think it will make a huge difference.”