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Ken Harper honors wife, NKU with endowment to help meet demand for health care professionals


Northern Kentucky University has announced an endowed scholarship to honor and recognize the legacy of Eileen Harper that will help meet the region’s demand for health care professionals.

The endowed scholarship will support NKU students who are pursuing a degree in health-related careers and are also employed by St. Elizabeth Healthcare. Former Kentucky state legislator Ken Harper established the scholarship to honor his late wife, Eileen. He wanted to emphasize NKU’s role in training future health care professionals across the region, a calling the Harpers grew to appreciate over the years of treatment and care they received at St. Elizabeth.

Ken and Eileen Harper

“I’m incredibly moved by the St. Elizabeth team’s compassion and attentiveness to Eileen’s wellbeing. When you think about it, nurses arguably have the most important answers to our health needs. Their unique ability to tend and care of multiple patients at one time, all with distinctive situations, is truly remarkable,” said Ken Harper. “Eileen would look down and think this is exactly what she would like to do. She always was community-minded and loved the people at NKU. I hope this scholarship provides a lifetime of opportunity for many students over the years.”

Ken and Eileen are well-known community supporters and have been loyal supporters of the university. Ken served as Kentucky’s Secretary of State and as a state representative, where he championed the creation of Northern Kentucky State College 50 years ago. He also is an Emeritus Member of NKU’s Foundation Board and served as a Director for over a decade. Eileen volunteered her time to a variety of organizations throughout the region and the university. Three of their children also graduated from NKU — Greg Harper, Art History (’76); Bryan Harper, Graphic Design (’86); and Lesley Hugo (Harper), Industrial Technology-Construction Major (’93); as well as daughter-in-law Janet Harper, Education (’86 and ’91).

“The Harpers have been advocates for our university since our founding, and their longstanding civic engagement has fostered the region’s vitality,” said NKU President Ashish Vaidya. “Eileen’s enduring legacy will extend beyond just this scholarship and St. Elizabeth — it will transform the lives of future generations in our community.”

The university recently awarded senior nursing student Lexi Fowee as the scholarship’s first recipient. Fowee found a passion for nursing after she began volunteering at St. Elizabeth nearly a decade ago. She went on to obtain her Certified Nurse Assistant license in 2017 and continues to work at St. Elizabeth while learning about the health professions in NKU’s College of Health and Human Services.

“It’s a blessing to be honored as the first recipient of the Eileen Harper Memorial Scholarship. I am most grateful to Mr. Harper and his family for establishing this scholarship in memory of his late wife, Eileen,” said Fowee. “This scholarship provides me the opportunity to prioritize studying and become the best nurse that I can be. It also allows me to spend more time with my loved ones, instead of focusing on work and allowing other priorities to fall to the side.”

The scholarship further strengthens NKU and St. Elizabeth’s commitment to educating the next generation of health care professionals. NKU’s Health Innovation Center—one of the country’s largest and most comprehensive health professions buildings—is home to the St. Elizabeth Center for Simulation Education, which allows students to experience real-life health care situations through simulations. For more information on NKU’s health professions, visit the College of Health and Human Services website.

Pictured left to right: Jamie Parsons with St. Elizabeth, NKU President Ashish Vaidya, Ken Harper, CHHS Dean Dale Stephenson, Lexi Fowee. (NKU photo by Scott Beseler)

From Northern Kentucky University


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