Coming of age in the 1960s, Lubbie Harper Jr. ’65 was instilled with a sense of public service. “I wasn’t all about making money but rather making a difference,” he says. “Coming from my humble background, I was concerned with making a contribution to my community.”
He has done just that, first as social worker and educator, then as a lawyer and a judge. In February, he was selected for his most important role yet when Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy nominated him to be an associate justice on the state Supreme Court.
“Judge Harper is an experienced, talented and fair jurist, and he will be a welcomed addition to the court,” said Malloy.
Even before being officially appointed to the state’s highest court, Harper was at the center of a landmark decision. Serving the state Supreme Court in a temporary capacity, he was the swing vote in the court’s 2008 ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in Connecticut.
“That was the most rewarding accomplishment of my career,” he says.
After completing his degree in public administration at UNH, Harper earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Connecticut and worked in the New Haven School System. His interest in political science and government led him to the University of Connecticut Law School, where he completed his degree in 1975.
The first client of his private practice was the New Haven Board of Education, which he represented for more than 20 years. Harper began his career on the bench when he was appointed to the Connecticut Superior Court in 1997 and then the state Appellate Court in 2005.
Harper also has been active on Connecticut’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice system, where he currently serves as chairman.
Looking back, Harper says his time at UNH put his career on the fast track. Two of his favorite professors, Phillip Kaplan and Larry DeNardis, went on to become presidents at the University.
“The education I received at UNH developed a solid foundation for me,” says Harper. “I dedicated myself to getting the most out of my classes, and I emerged with the critical thinking skills that allowed me to succeed.”
He encourages everyone—especially students—to be critical thinkers. “Challenge ideas, philosophies, and beliefs and keep asking why.”
In the end, there is no replacement for hard work, says Harper. “You only get rewards if you invest time and effort and make sacrifices,” he says.
Posted Summer 2011