Alabama Nursing Hall of Fame

Sketch of Mary Harper

Mary Harper

Mary Harper has dedicated her life to improving this country’s health care delivery system for the elderly and has served as advisor to four U.S. presidents on these matters. A native of South Gerald, Alabama, Dr. Harper is an internationally recognized expert on issues of aging and mental health. Her seminal studies serve as the cornerstone for further research on the needs of the elderly and specifically, the needs of the African-American elderly. She has been awarded the surgeon general’s Medal of Honor twice for her tireless work and advocacy. She has established research and development centers throughout the country, and over 12,000 professionals have benefited from the fellowship program she founded. Dr. Harper began her career as a student nurse at the Tuskegee Institute. After receiving her B.S. and M.S. in nursing education from the University of Minnesota, she became director of nursing at the Tuskegee VA Hospital. During her long career with the federal government, Dr. Harper worked in hospitals and taught in universities around the country. She received her Ph.D. from St. Louis University and has written four books and over 180 journal articles. Dr. Harper’s tireless efforts with legislation, curriculum development, and federal funding helped establish minimum requirements for quality, long-term health care. The only endowed chair in geropsychiatric nursing at a historically black university has been established in Dr. Harper’s name at Tuskegee University. Dr. Harper’s leadership and national impact were also recognized in her home state when the Mary Starke Harper Geriatric Psychiatry Center was named in her honor in Tuscaloosa. Dr. Harper continues to be active with the Advisory Council of the National Institute for Aging and the surgeon general’s Task Force for Mental Health and Aging. Currently she is spearheading a program for caregivers, under the auspices of the Rosalyn Carter Institute for Human Development.