Society of Professional Journalists head Terry Harper dies

Thursday, June 4, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS — Terry Harper, executive director of the Society of Professional Journalists, has died. He was 45. The Indianapolis-based SPJ said in a statement that Harper died June 2 after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

He had served as SPJ's executive director for seven years and was credited with pushing the organization to enhance professional-development training programs at the local level. He also was executive director of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the SPJ's educational arm. SPJ defines its mission in part as “the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty,” including freedom-of-information advocacy.

“Terry was a great believer in the First Amendment, and as a gifted leader and manager, he helped make SPJ stronger and more effective in its advocacy for freedom of the press,” said Paul McMasters, a former national president of SPJ and of the SDX Foundation. McMasters is also former executive director of the First Amendment Center.

See a tribute to Harper and plans for remembrance at the SPJ site.

A native of Yukon, Okla., where he delivered papers as a boy for the Yukon Review, Harper was a 1986 graduate of Oklahoma State University.

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. He also had served as a financial advisor at UBS PaineWebber and had been director of fundraising for the Kiwanis International Foundation.

Harper is survived by his wife and two teenage sons.

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