Celebrating 40 years: the Foundation’s first donor

Margaret Harper, the Foundation's first donor
Margaret Harper, the Foundation’s first donor.

Margaret Harper didn’t graduate from Carolina, but the University and the College of Arts and Sciences always held a special place in her heart. Harper demonstrated her love for the College by making the first gift of $1,000 to the Foundation upon its founding in 1975.

And she continued to give, making annual gifts to the College for 33 years up until her death in 2009. In all, she gave more than $50,000 to the College.

“I can’t give multimillion-dollar gifts, but I know that what I can give joins with the gifts of others to do great things for students and faculty at the College,” Harper said.

A 1937 alumna of Greensboro College, Harper wanted to attend UNC-Chapel Hill, but as she phrased it in a 2008 interview, “Girls weren’t allowed in when I was coming along.”

That never deterred her from supporting the University and the College. She served as a member of the UNC Board of Trustees and was a founding member of the Arts and Sciences Foundation Board of Directors.

As Carolina was gearing up for its first fundraising campaign in the mid-1970s, Harper was surprised to learn that the College of Arts and Sciences had no formal mechanism for fundraising. As a member of the Board of Trustees, she knew that private giving was the surest means for the College to grow. She worked with the dean of the College and other volunteers to create the Arts and Sciences Foundation, and then served faithfully on its board of directors for many years.

In addition to her volunteer service at Carolina, Harper served as publisher and owner of The State Port Pilot, a community newspaper in Southport, N.C. In the 1960s, she was one of the first women to run for statewide office—she ran for lieutenant governor in 1968 and 1972. She also held numerous leadership positions in service organizations, including the North Carolina Press Association and the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs. In addition, she served on the Research Triangle Institute Board of Governors.

At Carolina, Harper received the William Richardson Davie Award for service to the University as well as the GAA Distinguished Service Award. And although she never attended Carolina, both of her sons and two of her grandchildren received degrees from UNC.

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