Gary Harper - Began as a WKCTC Student

Gary HarperTennessee native Gary Harper worked in a factory not long after serving as an Air Force staff sergeant in Desert Storm. A manager in a factory that made rotors for air conditioning compressors, Harper said he could see the writing on the wall and knew there would be major cutbacks at the plant. “The two factories I worked at, both of them either had major cutbacks or closed, so I was looking for a career that didn’t do that as often. Because in factories you can make good money for a little while and then you lose everything. I looked into health care and it was pretty much consistent employment so that’s what drew me to the
profession.”

Harper, 42, the father of two daughters, moved from Tennessee to Kentucky and began work as an orderly/nursing assistant at Murray-Calloway County Hospital in Kentucky. The hospital offered a program at the time that paid for one year of post secondary education if the person agreed to work one year at the hospital. Harper enrolled at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, graduating with an Associate in Science degree in nursing in 2005. He was offered a position as a registered nurse at Murray-Calloway County and continued his quest for higher education, earning Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in nursing. He was recently hired to teach medical surgical nursing at WKCTC and plans to pursue his doctorate in nursing. “The education at WKCTC was very important. My associate degree has been the most important degree to me. From it, I was able to do everything else. I was able to work as a nurse and start my profession. It gave me the education that I needed to get my bachelor’s and from that I was able to get my master’s and hopefully one day get my PHD. So it was the beginning of my entire profession.”

Harper said you have to decide what you want out of life. “You can stay and work in factories which is fine because I still have several family members that that’s exactly what they do and they are comfortable with that, but education is important because it gives you more options. Once you get an education, you can still stay and work in factories but you’ll have the options to do more things. So it’s important regardless of what you end up doing, you need to have an education to be able to make those decisions and to have those options for your future.”