Willis James Harper - Doctor of Agriculture

May 2014  

Willis J. Harper

Willis J. Harper 
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Dr. Willis James Harper (W. James; Jim) was born in Lafayette, Indiana in 1923. He grew up in West Lafayette, attended West Side High School and started Purdue University in the fall of 1941 in the College of Agriculture. Harper joined the U.S. Army Reserve Core in February of 1942 and was called to Active Duty in April of 1943.  He served in the 102nd Infantry Division in the European Theater of Operations, being wounded in combat in Germany in November 1944.  

Harper received a medical discharge from the Army in June of 1945, completed his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at Purdue in 1946 and then his Master of Science and Ph.D at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Upon completion of his Ph.D in 1949, he joined the Dairy Technology Department at The Ohio State University as an assistant professor. He advanced through the ranks to full professor engaged in both teaching and research. 

In 1971 the Department of Dairy Technology was combined with the Institute of Nutrition to become the Department of Food Science and Nutrition. He developed all of the non-dairy technology courses in the new department and taught 6-8 courses during the next 10 years, while also conducting an active research program.

He retired from Ohio State in 1981 to join the New Zealand Dairy Research Institute to head of a group of researchers that developed a whey protein concentrate program, with technology that still brings in more than a billion dollars a year to New Zealand. 

In the early 1990s, he was asked to return to the Department of Food Science and Technology at Ohio State to teach. In 1993, he was appointed as the J. T. Parker Chair in Dairy Foods, where he served until his retirement in August 2013. 

Over the years Harper has had a large number of students in his classes, advised over 150 students to advanced degrees, published one book, 15 book chapters and more than 300 papers in well-recognized scientific journals.  He has received much recognition, including as a fellow in the American Dairy Science Association and an Honorary Fellow in the New Zealand Royal Society.

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