Bernice Catherine Harper, the director of Social Services at City of Hope, worked at the institution from 1957 until 1974. In honor of Women’s History Month this #TBT is a story about Harper which appeared in the June, 1969 publication of Scope.
Harper became the new president of the American Society for Hospital Social Work Directors of the American Hospital Association. This appointment was a great honor because the presidency was one of the highest positions that could be achieved in the field of social work.
“Mrs. Harper was born in Covington, Va., and her early ambition was to do missionary work. Eventually, however, she decided her motivations would be better served in the field of social service. After graduation from Virginia State College she went on to obtain her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. Later she received a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Harvard University.”
Through her work at City of Hope Harper was able to explore the humanitarian philosophy that was, and is, a large part of what the institution is built upon. In addition to implementing the humanitarian philosophy at City of Hope, Harper also brought that vision to society at large.
“She [had] lectured and conducted workshops throughout the United States at educational institutions and professional meetings. [She also had] piloted contributions to the medical and paramedical field [which] appeared in numerous professional journals and texts.”
The article also provides a laundry list of Harper’s involvement with local, national, and international organizations; including her being a board member of the Los Angeles United Way, Inc., and her affiliation with the Royal Society of Health, Great Britain and the Academy of Certified Social Workers.
Mrs. Gilbert O’Reilly, a member of the Los Angeles County Hospital Advisory Commission, said the following about Harper:
“Mrs. Harper was more than generous in sharing her experience, her knowledge and her enthusiasm for the basic fundamentals of not only the City of Hope, but her devotional concern for all human beings. One has only to spend a few minutes with her to realize that here is a woman dedicated to living as it really should be. In a world of jaded devotions, Mrs. Harper was the promise of hope.”
For more information about Harper, visit the website for the National Association of Social Workers Foundation, where she was a board member from 2014-2015.