At its Fiscal Court meeting this week, Kenton County recognized 2021 Pioneer Award honoree Ken Harper for his outstanding career of public service.
Kenneth F. Harper was born on January 15, 1931, in Covington, Kentucky. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1951 and served in the Korean War. When he returned home from service, he joined his father in their family business.
Ken Harper married Eileen Kathman on May 16, 1953. Ken and Eileen together provided service and leadership to Northern Kentucky for decades. He served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1964 to 1968 and from 1982 to 1994. He also served as Kentucky Secretary of State from 1971 to 1972. During his time as a state legislator, Mr. Harper championed the creation of Northern Kentucky University.
He has been a Rotarian in the Covington Chapter of Rotary International since 1954 and served previously as Chapter President. With Rotary as the catalyst, Mr. Harper served many other organizations, including Thomas More University and the Parish Kitchen. During this time, Mr. Harper received many awards, such as Outstanding Young Man of Kentucky, Outstanding Jaycee, and the John F. Kennedy Award for Outstanding Contributions to State Government.
In March of 2020, Eileen passed away from complications of COVID-19. Community leaders together during their nearly 67 years of marriage, Ken established a scholarship fund in Eileen’s name to support the next generation of health care professionals.
The Kenton County Pioneer Award honors living residents of Kenton County who have a record of outstanding service to the community and exemplify the highest standards of personal integrity. The Pioneer Award honors those who demonstrate servant leadership combined with awareness of the needs of fellow residents.
The Kenton County Ethics Commission reviews nominations, identifies four deserving individuals, and forwards their names to the Kenton County Fiscal Court.
The 2021 Kenton County Pioneer Award honorees are Wilbert Ziegler, Ray Hebert, Ken Harper, and Mark Guilfoyle. Past Pioneer Award recipients include Ralph Drees, Mer Grayson, Robert Hoffer, Kim Kitchen, Parker William, Ed Schroeder, Jim Claypool, Mary Hulefeld, Rick Hulefeld, John Salyers, Bill Goetz, Burr Travis, William Funke, Garren Colvin and Arnold Simpson.