Texas A&M University-Commerce Professor of Horticulture Dr. Derald Harp was recently honored as a Texas A&M University System Regents Professor.
The A&M System Board of Regents announced their selections for Regents Professors and Regents Fellows at their regular meeting on November 9.
The Regents Professor title is the highest honor bestowed upon faculty in the A&M System. It recognizes individuals at the rank of professor or equivalent who have provided exemplary service to their university and the local, state or international community.
Created in 1996, 306 faculty members have been honored with the Regents Professor award to date. The Regents Fellow award is a similar honor bestowed on agency professionals in the eight A&M System agricultural and engineering agencies.
Harp was raised in Everman, Texas, and received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Tarleton State University. He says his experiences as a university student sparked his love of teaching.
“I got an opportunity to teach a lab while I was still an undergrad at Tarleton,” Harp said. “Even though it was just one class, I was instantly hooked; I knew I wanted to be a university professor.”
However, his path to the classroom had to wait after he secured a position at a landscape maintenance firm in Dallas-Fort Worth, working on multi-million-dollar landscaping projects across the Metroplex. He spent 13 years in the private sector before returning to school to earn a doctorate in Horticulture from Texas A&M University in 2000.
“I had a good job doing landscaping work, but throughout those years, teaching was still my end goal,” Harp said.
Harp's first university appointment came at Southeast Missouri State University, where he worked as an assistant professor from 2000 to 2003. In Fall 2003, he began his tenure at A&M-Commerce and was promoted to Professor in 2015.
During his 20 years in Commerce, Harp has witnessed a period of major growth for the university and the field of agriculture.
“When I began, we had seven full-time faculty,” Harp said. “Now, agriculture at A&M-Commerce has grown significantly and the opportunities we can provide students have increased dramatically.”
During Harp's tenure, agriculture at A&M-Commerce had transformed from a department to the School of Agriculture, finally establishing the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) in the mid 2010s. Now, several hundred students study in more than a dozen CASNR degree programs.
Harp says being honored as an A&M System Regents Professor is a humbling experience.
“It is truly the most humbling, rewarding thing to even be considered for this honor,” Harp said. “I know the quality of faculty at our university who were named Regents Professors. To be in the same group as them is really special.”
Harp also stressed that this honor wouldn't be possible without the assistance of Texas A&M AgriLife, with whom he has worked closely on several research projects during his time at A&M-Commerce.
While CASNR has tripled its enrollment over the past decade, Harp says he is optimistic for future growth, especially with the impending construction of A&M-Commerce's new Agricultural Multipurpose Education & Training Center.
“We have new facilities on the way, and we remain a great place for students to learn,” Harp said. “Our college is poised to do some special things in the near future.”
CASNR Dean Randy Harp expressed congratulations to Derald Harp and touted his commitment to excellence in agriculture education.
“It is my privilege to recognize and support Dr. Derald Harp as Regents Professor for the Texas A&M System,” Randy Harp said. “A well-deserved honor is merited as he continues to be a successful researcher and teacher. He has contributed immensely to the fiber and function of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.”
A&M-Commerce President Mark Rudin echoed the dean's sentiments.
“Dr. Harp exemplifies the many great qualities that make our faculty stand above the rest,” Rudin said. “His expertise and instruction have been vital to the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and its substantial growth during his tenure at A&M-Commerce.”
For a list of all 14 Regents Professors and 13 Regents Fellows, visit the A&M System website.