Harper’s career path began with a voice contest sponsored by the Louisville Courier Journal, which sent her to study at the University of Louisville in 1944. Three years later, she put her collegiate aspirations on hold to move to Indianapolis and sing with the Art Berry Orchestra at The Columbia Club. She firmly ensconced herself in the city’s broadcasting world, becoming the state’s first female vocalist on television and first female disc jockey, interviewing the likes of Patti Page, the McGuire Sisters, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Bill Haley and the Comets along the way.
She returned to college at Butler University, earning her bachelor’s degree in speech in 1963 and a master’s degree in education and speech in 1968. Harper began teaching at the university shortly after graduation, beginning as an instructor and progressing to a full professor. Until her retirement from the university, in 1988, she guided radio and television broadcasting students through advisement, teaching and the introduction of courses, including broadcast law and music in broadcasting.
“Generations of Butler students learned from Ann Harper and Jim Phillippe, who together held us to very high expectations,” Indiana Broadcasters Association Executive Director Dave Arland, who graduated from Butler in 1985 with a degree in radio and television broadcasting, said. “Her encouragement, patience, good humor and trailblazing experience in broadcasting was a gift that still resonates. Butler had no better advocate for communications students from the 1960s through the 1980s.”
Harper was inducted into the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame in 1985 and earned the Butler Service Medal in 2015.