The Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor the University of Arizona Alumni Association bestows, is given only to alumni who have attained prominence in their field, with demonstrated service to the institution.
This year, the award goes to Gary Harper, who earned a mechanical engineering degree from the UA in 1971.
Harper represents the essence of the prestigious award, said Melinda Burke, president of the UA Alumni Association.
"Gary Harper has a deep love for the University of Arizona, and it is based on a family legacy of Wildcats as well as his student experience at the UA," Burke said.
Harper has honored his alma mater by reaching pinnacles of success in his 40-year career in the electric utility business, having spent 38 years at Salt River Project in Phoenix. He rose to prominence in the industry, being promoted to various executive positions and managing customer service, distribution, transmission and generation departments for SRP.
As Harper built his career, he recognized the importance of giving back to the utility industry and community organizations. He volunteered his time as president of Arizona Blue Stake, chairman of the Arizona Electric Coordinating Council, member of the Western Electric Coordinating Council and chair of the Desert Southwest Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Also, Harper is a life member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Harper's commitment to the UA has been substantial.
He has served on the UA Foundation board of directors and the Eller College of Management national board of advisers and is a member of the College of Engineering's Da Vinci Circle.
Harper also is past president of the UAAA's Phoenix chapter and a member of the Phoenix Engineering Alumni Council, the Old Main Society, the UA President’s Club, the Wildcat Club and the Wildcat for Life Leadership Council.
In 2003, he was awarded the Alumni Association's Bear Down Award for meritorious service on behalf of the UA.
Of particular pride to Harper is nine years of service on the UA Alumni Association governing board of directors, which he chaired in 2010-11. He led the restructuring of the association's governance model, creating the Wildcat for Life Leadership Council. The council has since has opened new opportunities for alumni involvement and support.
"As a governing board member and chair, Gary Harper demonstrated the strategic vision, objectivity and commitment that was an inspiration for other alumni leaders and association staff," Burke said. "This dedication to the UA led him to be a remarkably effective leader for the Alumni Association at both the local and national level."
Harper's work with the Stella and Swede Johnson Endowment supports association programs and student scholarships.
Since his days as a student at the UA, Harper has been a champion of the Alumni Association and the University. He is an advocate and ambassador with the wisdom and insight to be an invaluable adviser.
His words to new graduates are: "The UA experience provides you a wonderful foundation to achieve whatever you strive to do. Remember, you are Wildcats for life. Embrace your connection to the University of Arizona in the years ahead."