Announcing the William Harper Biomedical Engineering Graduate Student Fellowship

Mr. George Harper of Boca Raton, Florida, has bequeathed $450,000 as a legacy gift to the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering to support graduate student fellowships. This substantial gift is a first of its kind for the department.

While not an alumnus of UF, Mr. Harper credits biomedical engineering technology for saving his life after kidney failure that also affected others in his family.

                 William Harper

Biomedical engineering has had a profound and beneficial effect on Mr. Harper’s family. He and his two brothers had hereditary kidney disease. His oldest brother William, whom this fellowship is named, died of kidney failure at age 15 in 1946. At that time, a diagnosis of kidney failure was a death sentence until the early nineteen sixties when chronic hemodialysis became possible. Despite technical advances, insurance for dialysis was unavailable for most until the early nineteen seventies when dialysis became covered under Medicare. His middle brother, Tommy, died at age 22 in 1960 after receiving what was at that time an experimental kidney transplant.

“I hope my family’s experience will help students in biomedical engineering understand the importance of their work, its place in history, and what it can mean to people’s lives, said George Harper.”

George Harper’s kidneys failed at age 34 in 1980. Because of technical advances in dialysis and Medicare insurance, he was able to survive and continue working as a high school counselor in Rome, Georgia. George lived and thrived on home hemodialysis for 21 years before having a successful kidney transplant in 2002. He credits his survival to biomedical engineering research, which conceived and built the dialysis technology that saved his life.

“We are so thankful for Mr. Harper’s generosity and kindness. This donation will have a tremendous impact on our ability to train the next generation of biomedical engineers, said Dr. Christine Schmidt, BME Department Chair.”