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Home > SPJ News > SPJ executive director Terry Harper passes away after battle with cancer

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SPJ executive director Terry Harper passes away after battle with cancer



For Immediate Release:

Dave Aeikens, SPJ President, 320-255-8744,
Scott Leadingham, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 211,

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is saddened to announce the passing of Executive Director Terry Harper, who died today after a two-year struggle with brain cancer.

Harper, who served from February 2002 through May 2009, took the helm of SPJ after a series of short-term executive directors. He helped restore stability to its headquarters operations and pushed the organization to enhance professional development training programs at the local level and train in partnership with other journalism groups.

During his dual tenure as executive director of SPJ and its non-profit educational arm, the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, Harper marshaled the Foundation’s financial support for a wide range of journalism, First Amendment and diversity efforts.

Though trained in association management and development, Harper liked to note that his first paying job was in journalism – as a paperboy for the Yukon Review in his hometown of Yukon, Okla.

A 1986 graduate of Oklahoma State University, Harper was a Certified Association Executive, a designation he earned in 1999 from the American Society of Association Executives. He had 19 years of nonprofit association management experience, including 13 years with Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where he served as executive director from 1990-1999.

From 1999-2001 he was a financial advisor at UBS PaineWebber (now UBS Financial Services) where he worked in a partnership providing investment management consulting to nonprofit organizations and foundations.

Immediately before coming to SPJ and the SDX Foundation, Harper was the director of fundraising for the Kiwanis International Foundation.

During his battle with cancer, Harper kept a blog documenting his trials and tribulations. His humor and upbeat attitude came through in many posts. He composed his final blog message several months ago, which his wife posted today upon his passing. See the blog here.

He is survived by his wife Lee Ann and two teenage sons, Dale and Jace.

More information on memorial arrangements will be available soon at the SPJ Web site,

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Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center
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