Fred Roper (MSLS ’62): Combining his love for UNC academics and athletics into one unique gift

December 12, 2016

By Hope Baptist '87, UNC Development Communications

Seats 6 through 9 in Row F of Section 229 in the Dean Dome have always belonged to Dr. Fred W. Roper (AB ’60 and MSLS ’62).  Back when he was associate dean at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), he purchased lifetime rights in 1982 as part of the faculty/staff fundraising effort to construct the building.

Fred Roper, forefront, and his spouse, Jon Upson,
at the Dean Dome this fall.
Photo by Jon Gardiner, UNC Chapel Hill

Roper was there when the Dean Dome opened in 1986 with an epic battle between the top-ranked Tar Heels and Tobacco Road powerhouse and archrival Duke, ranked third. The top spot in the polls hung in the balance. Carolina came away with a 95-92 victory.

For the next three decades, Roper collected many more moments and memories from those seats. Even after becoming dean at the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science in 1986, where he served for 17 years before retiring as distinguished dean emeritus, Roper came back often to get his Carolina fix. 

His love of his alma mater extends beyond the hardwood, the gridiron or the classroom. He’s been involved in the life of the University and SILS, having served on SILS’s Board of Visitors as well as the UNC Board of Visitors. His achievements, scholarship and contributions to the field of librarianship earned him the SILS Distinguished Alumni Award in 1986. As a dual degree holder, former faculty member and administrator, Roper is a passionate supporter of Carolina’s best and brightest, and of SILS in particular.

Now, he’s giving back in a unique and special way—by giving the rights to his Dean Dome seats to SILS. It’s one of only a few gifts like this ever made to Carolina.

“We are so fortunate to have someone like Fred who is not just committed to making SILS and the University better, but who can also envision the significant impact this unique gift can have,” said Gary Marchionini, SILS dean and Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor. “SILS will be able to engage current and potential scholars and students in the life of the University on a larger scale, and recognize their achievements in ways we haven’t been able to before. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

  Roper’s motivation was simple: “I want to enhance the academic programs at SILS and UNC. These seats present tangible opportunities for the school to bring pre-eminent scholars and talented students here and give them a peek into life at Carolina as well as acknowledge the tremendous work already under way.”

A native of Hendersonville, N.C., Roper has witnessed the University’s evolution over the past 60 years or so, having come to Chapel Hill as a freshman in 1956-57, the year of Carolina’s first NCAA championship.  He entered the master’s program in 1960 (there was no PhD program then) and his classes met on the fourth floor of Wilson Library.

“UNC and SILS gave me a stellar education and opportunities to expand in ways that I hadn’t imagined,” he said. “Throughout my 40-plus-year career, I’ve been fortunate to work with incredible people, explore innovative education development and watch SILS become a top school for library science. I am honored to have been a part of that in some way.”

Roper said he’d had many significant people in his life who have encouraged and supported him, specifically his high school librarian, who introduced him to librarianship, and his mother and stepfather who supported and believed in him unconditionally. In 2012, Roper documented a bequest to UNC as part of his estate plan to honor the memory of his mother and stepfather and to acknowledge the educational experience he received at SILS. His gift will create the Mary Alice and George Jones Fund to support and advance SILS’s nationally recognized medical librarianship and health informatics programs.

“I’ve had so many wonderful experiences on this campus, at SILS, and in the Smith Center,” Roper said. “It brings me such joy to make these gifts, and to know that they will help create opportunities for future generations.”

This story was published in the Fall 2016 SILS newsletter.