Skip to main content

In Memoriam: Fred Roper

The School of Information and Library Science community is mourning the loss of a distinguished alumnus and passionate supporter, Fred Roper (AB ’60 and MSLS ’62).

Photo of Fred Roper as a young man from his application to UNC

Roper grew up in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and became an avid library user in second grade. In high school, Roper worked in the library and established a close mentoring relationship with the school librarian. In addition to instilling a lifelong passion for his future career, this librarian taught him the importance of mentoring.  Fred took this lesson to heart and became an outstanding mentor to many.

When selecting a college, UNC at Chapel Hill was his first choice. He had always been a fan of the Tar Heels when it came to sports and with support from his mother and stepfather he applied and was accepted into the English Department. While working toward his undergraduate degree, Roper worked as a page in the Circulation Department at Wilson Library.

The week after graduating in June 1961, Roper began working toward his Master’s in Library Science at what is now the SILS. He met many influential people, including Myrl Ebert, who Roper describes as “personable and energetic.” Ebert had much to do with Roper accepting a position at the University of California Los Angeles. He left UCLA to attend Indiana University at Bloomington on a federal fellowship to pursue his doctoral degree.

Photo of Fred Roper next to a door with a sign saying "If God is not a Tarheel, then why is the sky Carolina Blue!" and a cartoon.After receiving his Ph.D., he was actively searching and interviewing for positions when Dr. Bob Miller, his advisor and mentor from the SILS master’s program, decided to leave teaching and recommended him for his position. Roper was hired and returned to Chapel Hill in 1971 as assistant professor.  He rose through the ranks at SILS and served as associate dean from 1982 until 1986, when he was appointed dean of the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science, where he served for 17 years.

Even as a busy dean handling a myriad of administrative tasks, Roper still found time to teach medical librarianship, write a textbook about medical librarianship – Introduction to Reference Sources in the Health Sciences – and serve as president of the Medical Library Association.

Throughout his years at SILS, and even after he left, he was a devoted and generous friend, giving of his time, talents, and energy to contribute to those efforts he truly believed in. In addition to participating in many activities offered by SILS, Roper served as chair of the SILS Board of Visitors and was a member of the UNC Board of Visitors.

Roper was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Alumni Association of UNC School of Library Science in 1986.  He gave the first Annual Henderson Lecture in 1991 and again in 2011 for the 80th Anniversary of SILS.

He was active in several national and state professional organizations.  He is a former director and chair of the research committee of the Special Libraries Association and former president and director of its North Carolina chapter.  He chaired the national association’s 75th conference committee in 1984.

Headshot of Fred Roper in late middle ageIn North Carolina, Roper served as director and chairman of the Education for Librarianship Committee of the North Carolina Library Association and was the NCLA representative to the American Library Association Council.

In 2022, as part of SILS’s 90th-anniversary celebration, Roper created and recorded a personal history of SILS entitled “On the Shoulders of Giants”.  He also donated his longstanding UNC basketball tickets to SILS to entertain potential faculty and SILS supporters.

Our thoughts are with Fred’s spouse, Jon Upson, and all the friends, family members, and colleagues who join us in mourning Fred’s passing.  His legacy in the field and his friendship to the UNC School of Information and Library Science will not be forgotten.

As SILS continues to work with the Roper family to honor Fred’s memory and impact through his estate plans, we are moving forward with his intent to honor his parents through the creation of the Mary Alice and George Jones fund. This will support medical librarianship and the health informatics program. Roper credited both his mother and stepfather with helping him pursue a career in medical librarianship. Thank you for considering a donation to honor Dr. Roper and supporting the SILS Health Information Services and Health Informatics program. Please contact Ty Cole, our Associate Dean for Development, at if you have questions.


Photo of Jon and Fred together at an event
Jon Upson and Fred Roper


Memories of Fred Roper:

“Our world has lost a shining star with the passing of Fred.  I was fortunate that he was assistant dean during my time at SILS, and his kindness, wisdom, and true caring for all of our students left an indelible mark on our school.  I am so grateful to have had so many years with Fred; his passion for UNC and SILS sets the standard for all of us.  I am so grateful for all he has done for our program, but most of all, for his friendship.  Rest in peace, dear friend.”

Julie Walker, Assistant Vice Chancellor & State Librarian, Georgia Public Library Service, University Systems of Georgia


“When I became Dean of SILS in 2010, Fred took me to lunch and began a mentorship that lasted until his passing.  He counseled patience, consistency, and taking a long and balanced view of leadership. Over the years, he continued his mentorship using the wisdom of experience, true devotion to SILS and our field, and hearty humor.  I regularly sought his counsel and will miss his advice and hearty laugh.  We have lost a great champion for SILS and UNC.”

Gary Marchionini, Cary C. Boshamer Professor and former dean of SILS


“Fred was always so kind to me, so friendly and welcoming.  He wanted the best for SILS and ­­was so dedicated to seeing it through. He really put in the work. He will be missed.”

Fred Stutzman, CEO of Freedom


“He was thoughtful, kind to everyone, a gentleman, and a gentle soul.”

Leo Yakutis, Information Technology Management Consultant, NTT DATA Services


“I was reflecting earlier today that I knew Fred for about 40 years, starting when he was Asst. Dean at UNC.  When I was unsure about a career path, he encouraged me to talk to the library school.  Eventually, I did just that, and am so grateful for Fred’s guidance and friendship. He always found time to talk with me.”

David Singleton, Chair, SILS Board of Visitors and Library Consultant


“I was lucky enough to have Fred as a teacher, an employer (in my SILS work study), and as a colleague at MLA. He even advised me on my dissertation and career directions! Quite a loss.”

Bernie Todd Smith, former Educational Ethics Consultant

A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, May 18 in Columbia, South Carolina. It will also be livestreamed. Find complete details at