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College mourns death of former dean

The College of Information and Communications mourns the death of Fred W. Roper, professor and dean emeritus. Roper died on April 30, 2024.

A nationally recognized scholar and educator in the field of medical librarianship, Roper joined the College of Library and Information Science in 1986 and quickly made an impact, introducing the full MLIS program through distance education in South Carolina and to cohorts of students in Georgia, West Virginia and Maine. He integrated computer technology into the curriculum and forged strong ties with the public and academic library communities.

Roper is survived by his spouse, Jon Upson, brother-in- law Jeff Upson,  sister-in-law Heidi Langston (Jim), nephew Kai Langston, niece Kayla Langston, and a host of cousins and friends.

A Celebration of Life service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 18, 2024, at the Chapel of Thompson Funeral Home at Greenlawn Memorial Park, 845 Leesburg Road, Columbia, SC 29209.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Fred W. Roper Silver Anniversary Scholarship Fund (1B1972). Checks should be made payable to the USC Educational Foundation, 1028 Barnwell Street, Columbia, SC 29208. Please include a note indicating the full name and number of the scholarship.

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Reflections by friends and colleagues

Gayle Douglas Johnson, former associate dean of the CIC

When Fred became dean of the College of Library and Information Science in 1986, he inherited me as his administrative assistant. Over time we crafted an almost symbiotic working relationship. Fred taught by example, and he trained me well in budgeting (find every penny), scheduling (you will never make everyone happy), relationships ( know every secretary’s name), split infinitives (never!), and UNC basketball (tread lightly if they lose). In our years together at the university, Fred always pushed me to accept increasing responsibility with confidence.

My fondest memories of Fred are really informal observations. He could quiet any baby and loved holding them. He baked the best pound cakes, often winning blue ribbons at the State Fair. He was devoted to friends all over the country, making sure to reach out and stay in touch. He was respected by faculty for his ability to build consensus. He praised staff for the vital role they play in the successful operation of the College. He was a great traveling companion, and he never met a stranger or forgot a name. 

Fred gradually became family to me. He was with us on holidays, birthdays, times of celebration and times of loss. He always brought cake. He kept pictures of my grandchildren on his refrigerator as if they were his. We will miss him dreadfully. 

In 1986 I could not have imagined then what an important role Fred would play in my life. I am grateful for every minute we had together. 

Tom Reichert, dean of the College of Information and Communications

Dean Fred Roper has been a trusted advisor and friend since I arrived at South Carolina. He played a major role in furthering the school’s reputation for excellence and innovation. Further, Fred’s love for the LIS program was evident to all — as well as the love all of us had for him. Fred was a wonderful human being who we will sorely miss.

Lyda Fontes McCartin, director of the USC School of Information Science

In the short time I knew him Fred was a great friend and mentor. He was always open to listening and believed a piece of pound cake could solve all the problems (he wasn’t wrong). I didn’t get nearly enough time to learn from him. His love and support for the School of Information Science over the years was unparalleled and we will miss him greatly.

Charles Bierbauer, dean emeritus of the USC College of Information and Communications

Fred was of valued counsel when we merged the College of Library and Information Science and College of Journalism and Mass Communications in 2002, creating what is now the College of Information and Communications. The only change Fred could not accommodate was his allegiance to pallid blue Carolina teams rather than the robust garnet Carolina.

Sam Hastings, professor and director emeritus of the USC School of Information Science

Oh my dear Dean Roper!  There are not enough words and expressions to honor you and your good work.  Of course, our school would not be where it is, famous and productive and creative without you!  You were so generous with your time and I treasure all the times you joined us for events (sometimes not feeling like it), your kindness to our alumni and attention to everyone. On a personal note, you were always willing to help me when I had tough decisions to make. I will miss you dearly and especially the times I could get you to laugh out loud! Rest in peace Dr. Fred Roper!

David Lankes, former director of the USC School of Information Science

When I joined as director in 2016, Fred was not only welcoming, but extremely generous with his time. He was an invaluable mentor in my first true administrative role.

We would have regular breakfasts to talk about the school, and he was always forthcoming with advice and learned experience. He always said he would never offer advice unless I asked — he mostly stuck to that. In the end his advice was always welcomed and sought after.

I leave it to others to write about his academic achievements, his love of Chapel Hill, his award-winning baking abilities, and his deep caring. I can only remark on how I will miss our discussions and his giving nature. Today we lost a great one.

Karen Gavigan, professor emerita and former interim director

I am saddened by the death of Dean Roper. He was an exceptional mentor and friend to me and to numerous other librarians and educators of librarians nationwide. Fred's ongoing passion for, and dedication to, the USC School of Information Science made an indelible mark on our program's success.  He will be truly missed. 

Dan Barron, distinguished professor emeritus 

Early on in our working relationship, I discovered that Fred didn't share my enthusiasm for jazz. This understanding helped us develop a more productive working relationship. I learned that he preferred discussing concise, well-structured proposals over engaging in informal, idea-driven discussions. I adapted by preparing carefully outlined suggestions for projects, with brief statements regarding each idea. This approach allowed us to work efficiently and accomplish a great deal for the College. I also had to make sure to bring a jacket or sweater when I visited his office!

One of my fondest memories of Fred was during the 25th Anniversary celebration when our distance education program in West Virginia was featured as a highlight. To demonstrate our innovative use of satellite dishes for downloading classes, Fred walked across the stage holding a pizza pan, humorously mimicking the rotation of a satellite dish. Fred was a good man, a good administrator, and, most importantly, a good friend.

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