CLEMSON — Clemson University Tuesday unveiled The Ronald & Katherine Harper Industry Collaboration Room on the top floor of the Sonoco Institute for Packaging Design and Graphics.

The Industry Collaboration Room is made possible by a $1.1 million gift from Ronald and Katherine Harper of Charlotte to Clemson’s graphic communications department. The gift value is associated with the sale of a house at Lake Wylie.

The Harpers are well known in the printing industry, having started The Harper Corporation of America in Charlotte in 1971. The company specializes in anilox rollers for the flexographic printing process, pressroom supplies and problem-solving for its customers.

“The Harpers, Ron and Katherine, have helped shape, contribute and support our efforts at Clemson, particularly in graphic communications, for decades,” said Sam Ingram, chairman of the graphic communications department. “And it is more than technology. Their belief in students, in education and their network, extending from the family out to the farthest reaches of the printing industry, have motivated us through their passion and expertise. Their gift will have a lasting mark on Clemson students — in their careers, the industry we share and the future.”

The Harpers began their collaboration with educational institutions nearly 20 years ago when The Harper Corporation became the first to participate in the Flexographic Technical Association’s Flexo in High Schools and Colleges Program. Today, high schools and colleges across the United States and Canada, and even in Argentina, have flexo programs that provide hands-on training for students interested in a career in flexography. Flexography is a form of the printing process that uses a flexible relief plate. It basically is an updated version of letterpress that can be used for printing on almost any type of surface, including plastic, metallic films, cellophane and paper.

“The opportunities the Harpers offer our students have an enormous impact on education and success after graduation,” said Clemson President James F. Barker. “Our graphic communications program has one of the highest placement rates at the university. Many years it is 100 percent, and one of the reasons is the hands-on, real-world experience they have received as students in the studios and labs and as interns in the industry.”

The graphic communications department provides students a technology-rich environment in an open laboratory setting. Industry partners provide numerous technical resources and updates as new or emerging technologies become available. This model of education partnering with industry has enabled program graduates to become immediate contributors to their employers. Industry supports the curriculum and enables the department to meet its mission statement: to develop dedicated, practical, problem-solving people for the printing, publishing, packaging, imaging and allied industries.

The Sonoco Institute for Packaging Design and Graphics is located in the Harris A. Smith Building at Clemson. The institute serves as a hub of technology collaboration that brings faculty and students together.

The concept for collaboration focused on packaging-industry projects was developed by the departments of packaging science and graphic communications. The institute focuses on designing environmentally sustainable packages; developing electronic films that can be printed on packages to create displays, track shipments or apply environmental or biological sensors; testing the impact of package design on consumer attention, buying patterns, use and disposal in its consumer experience lab; and integrating the multiple steps in package design and construction into a single workflow.

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