JOHN JOSEPH HARPER, 1920 - 1998
John J. Harper passed away during the night of Thursday May 28, 1998. He was 78. He had been in Piedmont Hospital, Atlanta for a few days after taking ill during a trip to North Carolina. A memorial service was held at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in North Atlanta on Monday June 1. He is survived by Mrs. Naomi Harper, sons Kent Michael Harper and Albert John Harper, both of Atlanta; his sister Mary H. Rael of Seneca, and two grandchildren. (Please see the Obituary in the Atlanta Constitution, Monday June 1, by clicking here. )
Born in Seneca, S.C., he received his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Clemson U. in 1940, and his Master's degree in aeronautical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1942. He retired from the School in 1986, after 44 years of service. For at least the last 30 of those years, he had been the director of the "nine-foot tunnel". For as long as anyone can remember around here, John Harper taught Aircraft Aerodynamics, Performance, Stability and Control to AE undergraduates. At an average of around 100 students per graduating class. For several years he also taught the Aircraft Design Lab course, the culmination of the aerospace engineer's undergraduate education, which then included the building and flight demonstration of a model. His Course Description was said to be 2 lines:
"GIVEN - nothing
FIND - everything.
His office in the basement of the Guggenheim building was known as "Lake Harper" : being roughly 7 feet below street level, it usually got a thorough washing and mopping after every rainstorm. His sense of humor enabled him to bear the repeated assurances from the campus authorities that it would not rain again. From this office, which included a drafting desk (never a computer!) he ran the operations of the wind tunnel, and supervised the operations of the School's Machine Shop, when he was not teaching his undergraduates. At least until his retirement, he was the No. 1 source for information on any alumnus of the School, rarely having to check his grade books (which were always available) to remember what so-and-so got in Aircraft Performance and Stability courses. When he retired in 1986, the tunnel was named after him. For several years after retirement, John continued to help us out by teaching courses in the School, and generously helping us, the new kids in the basement, as we tried to figure out the functions of the myriad gizmos needed to hold the tunnel together and keep it running. He was a private pilot, and in retirement he continued to build models. According to Mrs. Harper, he had constructed a small fleet of ship models, most recently a model of the H.M.S. Bounty (perhaps in honor of the crew in some his classes?) However, he was apparently reluctant to flight-test the more intricate of his aircraft models, having watched too many end-of-course design demonstrations.
Professor Harper also carried, for many years, the
heavy burden of co-producing and delivering each year's Office Christmas
Party Presentation with colleagues Howard
McMahon, Robert Sigman and Bob Daniel. Each such creation reached new
heights, dazzling the audience with multimedia technology which was far
ahead of its time. Deadlines and pressures notwithstanding, their Show
never failed to come through, on time, under budget. Sometimes they even
got the sound track in sync with the motion pictures. "Around
the World for 80 GRAs", dramatizing the School Director's efforts
to get the best students worldwide to come to Georgia Tech, was a
particularly acclaimed example. Unfortunately, the content of these masterpieces
aviation/academic lore often featured dramatized renderings of John's Administrative
Superiors and tenured colleagues,
and had to be classified as "A.E. Staff,
EYES ONLY". It is possible that few of his students even suspected these
talents in their professor.
- Contributed by John's colleagues.
Click here for more on the "J2H"
The links below are to pictures digitized from our
records. Most of us know less about these than you,
so we will try not to confuse your memories with inadequate descriptions.
|John & Naomi at John's retirement||In the Machine Shop||Tunnel Control Room|
|Small Vertical-Return Tunnel||Aero Lab||Workshop in the Guggenheim building|
|Rotor Model||Tunnel Turning Vanes||A Flutter model after testing|
|Martin 202||MartinXP4-M1||Martin AM1|
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