University of New Haven Alumnus Named New Haven Register’s Person of the Year
Lubbie Harper '65, an educator, social worker, and lawyer who went on to serve on the Connecticut Supreme Court, was recognized for the impact he has made on the Greater New Haven community.
January 2, 2019
By Dave Cranshaw, Office of Marketing & Communications
Coming of age in the 1960s, Lubbie Harper Jr. ’65 was instilled with a sense of public service. “I wasn’t all about making money but rather making a difference,” he says. “Coming from my humble background, I was concerned with making a contribution to my community.”
He has done just that, first as social worker and educator, then as a lawyer and a judge. This unwavering commitment and his dedication to being a “trailblazing mentor” led to him being named the New Haven Register’s 2018 Person of the Year.
"I want to give back,” he told the Register. “I have a moral obligation to give back.”
Harper was nominated by retired New Haven fire chief Allyn Wright, who grew up with Harper in the Newhallville section of New Haven in the 1960s.
“Coming from my humble background, I was concerned with making a contribution to my community.”Lubbie Harper Jr. ’65
“He just kept on us 24/7, and I believe that helped a lot of us get to where we are today,” Wright said. “He’s someone we really looked up to.”
Harper was officially sworn onto the state’s highest court in 2011. In 2008, while serving on the state Supreme Court in a temporary capacity, he was the swing vote in the court’s 2008 ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in Connecticut.
Following a mandatory retirement when he turned 70 in 2012, Harper currently sits by designation on the Appellate Court. He is chairman of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparity, which is “dedicated to eliminating racial and ethnic disparity in the criminal justice system.”
The level of respect and admiration Harper has in his profession and in the community is best exemplified by the sentiments of Supreme Court Justice Maria Araujo Kahn, who told the Register that it’s a struggle for anyone who meets Harper to refer to him just by his first name.
“I dedicated myself to getting the most out of my classes, and I emerged with the critical thinking skills that allowed me to succeed.”Lubbie Harper Jr. ’65
“We still call him Justice Harper, because he’s larger than life and such an incredible figure,” she said. “Justice Harper is so respected, not only by colleagues but also by staff and lawyers in the courthouse. He’s a really good judge of character, but he also has high standards.”
In a 2011 University of New Haven Alumni magazine profile, Harper said it was his time at the University that put his career on the fast track.
“The education I received developed a solid foundation for me,” said Harper, who in 2017 established an endowed scholarship to support students following in his footsteps. “I dedicated myself to getting the most out of my classes, and I emerged with the critical thinking skills that allowed me to succeed.”