Before he retired in 2004, Judson Harper held nearly every title at CSU: interim president, special assistant to the president, vice president for research, founder of the chemical and biological engineering department, and professor.

But his two biggest legacies might be his leadership with federal partners and mentoring students such as Dave Seidl (B.S., ’85), who just retired as a senior manager at Lockheed Martin.

Seidl, who was a first-generation student, credits Harper, now 87, with ushering him into a successful engineering career.

“You made it easy for someone who doesn’t learn stuff easily,” Seidl told Harper as they caught up this summer for the first time in 40 years. “I was in leadership at Lockheed Martin for 20 years, and most of what I used in quality engineering and manufacturing was what I learned at CSU.”

Unmatched leadership

Few people can claim a legacy like Harper’s. 

He joined CSU in 1970 to bolster an agricultural engineering program with his robust experience in food processing at General Mills. He founded what is now the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and substantially grew programs in biochemical applications of food processing. Harper’s low-cost food extrusion technology is still being used in parts of Africa to manufacture safe, nutritious food.

His ability to attract research dollars and collaborate with federal laboratories led to his role as vice president for research. He’s proudest of helping to obtain a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory next to the Centers for Disease Control facility on the Foothills Campus – now in the Judson M. Harper Research Complex – and attracting the USDA’s Natural Resources Research Center south of Prospect Road.

Harper served as vice president for research and information technology from 1982 to 2000.

“One of the things I tried to promote in my later career was to really take advantage of the connections we had with federal agencies,” he says. “The federal government wanted to do more work in Fort Collins because it was a nice place to live. They wanted to work with CSU faculty and retain their federal scientists and engineers.”

Dave Seidl says he owes his two-decade career at Lockheed Martin to his teacher, Jud Harper.
PHOTO: Russ Dickerson 

Still involved with CSU

In 1989, he served as interim until President Albert Yates was hired. Later, Harper served as special assistant to the president until his retirement. He is still involved at CSU as professor emeritus and through his philanthropy, including endowing the Jud and Pat Harper Professorship held by Ken Reardon, interim dean of the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering.

“I’ve always looked up to Jud – not only his impressive accomplishments, but even more so his very personal, considerate way of interacting with everyone,” Reardon says. “It’s an immense honor to hold the Harper Chair.”

The 130-seat auditorium in the Scott Bioengineering Building is also named after Harper, thanks to Standard Foods Corp. CEO Ter-Fung Tsao (M.S., ’72; Ph.D., ’76), who donated the funds to honor his teacher and mentor.

Seidl, also inspired by Harper, is giving back by assisting senior design students in the department and endowing a STEM scholarship. 

He and Harper got a little choked up talking about longtime chemical engineering Professor Vince Murphy, who passed away in 2022.

“Between you and Vince, I couldn’t have had a better team,” Seidl told his mentor.