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Flexography Exhibit Honors Katherine and Ron Harper

harpers.jpgby Jane Nicholoson

BOONE — Seeing your name in lights is one thing, but seeing your name and likeness etched on a metal tablet was a surprise for Katherine and Ron Harper of the Harper Corporation of America.

An exhibit at Appalachian State University created in their honor traces the evolution of a printing process called flexography.

The Harpers are considered pioneers in the flexographic printing process. Ron Harper is chairman and Katherine Harper is president of the Harper Corporation of America, a company they co-founded in 1971. Their company manufactures laser engraved anilox rolls used in flexographic printing.

Flexography is one of the fastest growing segments of the printing industry. The process is used to print packaging, labels and newspapers.

“Flexography is a major process in our industry,” said Thomas Reese of Hickory Printing Company. “We must provide opportunities for students to expand and broaden their skills.”

Working with the Foundation for the Flexographic Technical Association, the Harpers helped the Department of Technology acquire a Comco flexographic press. The couple also have pledged $100,000 and an estate gift to the flexographic printing component of Appalachian’s Thomas W. Reese Graphics Arts and Imaging Technology Program (GAIT). The gift will fund student scholarships, help defray the costs of other educational opportunities for students, such as internships, and provide professional development opportunities for faculty in the printing program.

Private support is important to state-funded universities, according to Chancellor Francis T. Borkowski. “It would be virtually impossible for us to purchase sophisticated equipment needed for the printing program through the state’s operating budget. Private resources will allow this program to move to a level of excellence. State dollars allow us to operate well, but that margin of excellence takes private support.”

Appalachian’s GAIT program has 150 student majors and is expected to exceed 250 majors by 2004. The program prepares students for a variety of employment opportunities in the printing industry.

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Picture Caption: Katherine and Ron Harper react with smiles to a new exhibit in Appalachian State University’s Department of Technology. The exhibit, created in honor of the Harpers, traces the evolution of a printing process called flexography. The exhibit was designed by Appalachian graduate Michael Walker of G. Michael’s Inc., a display design and fabrication company in Charlotte. (Appalachian photo by University Photographer Mike Rominger)