Dr. Stephen Harper, Duke Energy/Betty Cameron Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, will be retiring from the Cameron School of Business this spring after dedicating 41 years of exceptional service to the university and largely impacting the Wilmington business community.
In Dr. Harper’s words, however, he doesn’t consider this to be retirement, but rather a graduation.
“Graduation implies embarking on new adventures,” he said. “Spending more time with family is at the top of my list of things I plan to do, but there are also some ski slopes calling my name and a few sailboats waiting for me in the Atlantic.”
In 1976, UNCW was a much different place, with only 3,000 students and no masters programs. However, Dr. Harper believes that there is much constancy with UNCW.
“Teaching has always been this university’s primary focus, and undergraduate students have always been the primary audience. I have never regretted my decision to come to UNCW from the much larger Arizona State University. I recognized UNCW’s potential and the inevitable future growth and success,” he shared.
During his time at UNCW, Dr. Harper has taught 28 different courses in the subjects of marketing, management and entrepreneurship, but his accomplishments and initiatives certainly do not stop there. In addition to his work as an award-winning professor, Dr. Harper is an entrepreneur, consultant, seminar leader and bestselling author. He has written eight books on leadership and entrepreneurship and more than 70 articles for academic journals and practitioner magazines.
While working diligently to inspire and educate his students, Dr. Harper significantly shaped the fabric of the Cameron School of Business and established a number of programs, student experiences and even discipline-specific majors.
Some of his most notable initiatives include establishing a marketing major and an entrepreneurship and business development major; launching the M.B.A. program; assisting with the establishment of UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship; providing integral support for the creation of Business Week and establishing Entrepreneurship Week.
Every effort has been for the benefit of his students, improving the student experience both inside and outside of his classroom. Through the establishment of exceptional student experiences like Entrepreneurship Week, Dr. Harper has been able to stay true to his primary goal.
“My job has always been to focus on the application of the relevant, rather than the investigation of the obscure,” he said.
His work has often allowed students to interact with experienced business professionals, and Dr. Harper has provided unique opportunities and exposure to things many students rarely encounter.
Recent grad Camden Weis feels sure that his career path would have looked quite different if it weren’t for Dr. Harper.
“Without Steve, I may not have come to UNCW to pursue a degree in entrepreneurship, and I definitely wouldn’t have been introduced to a Fortune 500 CEO who is now also one of my closest mentors and friends. I may never have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to be on the founding team of tekMountain at such a young age,” Camden said. “He has shaped Wilmington’s entrepreneurial landscape, and I believe he has served as the catalyst that not only UNCW needed, but that Wilmington as a whole needed to become a key tech player on the East Coast.
“One of the best traits that Steve has is his ability to see the need for change, and how to start to make it happen. He has touched countless people and I am so humbled that he took me under his wing.”
Dean Burrus believes Dr. Harper has not only accomplished much for Cameron, but he also recognizes his meaningful reason for doing so.
“Steve’s dedication to his students was at the very heart of all the incredible feats he accomplished for the Cameron School,” he said.
Upon Dr. Harper’s “graduation,” there will be a noticeable void in the Cameron School of Business. His profound impact has been felt by many and the lessons he taught his students are ones that they will continue to reference and value for years to come. Remarkably, students from his early years at UNCW still keep in touch and look to Dr. Harper for advice and encouragement.
Becky Parker O’Daniell, Cameron graduate and Cameron Outstanding Alumni honoree, continues to seek guidance from Dr. Harper when contemplating new business decisions.
“When I was in school, Dr. Harper taught me so much about the possibilities entrepreneurship could offer,” Becky said. “He actually taught students about the real world and brought in real-life business leaders who shared their successes and failures. Years after graduation, he is still so patient to listen and help guide me to better decision making by asking me the hard questions. Thirty years later, and I am so thankful for the friendship we have.”
Robert T. Burrus, Jr., Ph.D., is the dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, named in June 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Prior to his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance. Burrus earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Wake Forest University. The Cameron School of Business has approximately 60 full-time faculty members and 20 administrative and staff members. The AACSB-accredited business school currently enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate students in three degree programs and 200 graduate students in four degree programs. The school also houses the prestigious Cameron Executive Network, a group of more than 200 retired and practicing executives that provide one-on-one mentoring for Cameron students. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit http://csb.uncw.edu/. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].
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