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Working towards optimal health for all older adults

Mary Starke Harper

The Mary Starke Harper Distinguished Leader Interview high-lights the career of a nurse whose outstanding leadership qualities and achievements serve to inspire others. The person for whom it is named—Mary Starke Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN (1919-2006)—was an American Academy of Nursing Living Legend and one of the coun-try’s foremost authorities on mental health and aging. Harper advocated for an organized system of support for families who provided long-term care to their elderly adults.

Selected Highlights & Accomplishments of Mary Starke Harper’s Career:
  • Education

    Majored in nursing at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama

  • Education

    Bachelor’s in nursing and Master’s degree in psychiatric mental health nursing from the University of Minnesota

  • Education

    Doctorate in clinical psychology and medical sociology from St. Louis University Career

  • Career

    Rose through the ranks of the Veteran’s Administration to become Director of Nursing

  • Career

    Member of the National Advisory Council for the National Institute of Health/National Institute of Aging and of the US Surgeon General’s Task Force on Mental Health

  • Career

    Worked for the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)

  • Career

    Authored five books and 186 scholarly articles

  • White House Efforts

    Carter White House Director of the Office of Policy Development and Research for the 1981 Conference on Aging

  • White House Efforts

    Led the effort to improve public hospitals’ mental health systems in the Clinton White House

Mary Starke Harper Awardees

  • 2023

    Margaret Wallhagen, PhD, RN, FAAN
    University of California, San Francisco 

  • 2022

    Lois Evans, PhD, RN, FAAN
    Professor Emerita
    University of Pennsylvania 

  • 2021

    Linda Phillips, PhD, RN, FAAN
    University of California, Los Angeles 

  • 2020

    Neville Strumpf, PhD, RN, FAAN
    University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

  • 2019

    Catherine L. Gilliss, PhD, RN, FAAN
    University of California San Francisco

  • 2018

    Kathleen Coen Buckwalter, PhD, RN, FAAN
    University of Iowa

  • 2017

    Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN

  • 2016

    Brigadier General Clara Adams-Ender, PhD, RN, MSN, CNAA, FAAN
    The University of Oklahoma

  • 2015

    Kathleen A. Dracup, PhD, RN, FNP, FAAN
    University of California, San Francisco

  • 2014

    Callista Roy, PhD, RN, FAAN
    Boston College / Mount Saint Mary's University

  • 2013

    Meridean Maas, PhD, RN, FAAN
    University of Iowa

  • 2012

    May L. Wykle, PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA
    Case Western Reserve University

  • 2011

    Mathy Mezey, EdD, RN, FAAN
    Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, New York University

  • 2010

    Angela McBride, PhD, RN, FAAN
    Indiana University School of Nursing

  • 2009

    Mary Starke Harper Memorial

  • 2008

    Gloria Smith, PhD, RN, FAAN
    Wayne State University

  • 2007

    Shirley Chater, RN, PhD, FAAN
    Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

  • 2006

    Loretta Ford, EdD, RN, PNP, FAAN, FAANP
    University of Rochester School of Nursing

  • 2005

    Claire M. Fagin, PhD, FAAN, RN
    University of Pennsylvania

  • 2004

    Luther Christman, PhD, RN, FAAN

  • 2003

    Florence Wald, RN, MN, MA, FAAN

  • 2002

    Mary Starke Harper, RN, PhD, FAAN