The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Larry Roper Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

November 7, 2014


Larry D. Roper was born in 1953 and grew up in inner-city Akron, Ohio. As a boy he had very little interaction with higher education until landing a job as a dishwasher at the University of Akron. This direct contact with a university and its students motivated him to become the first person in his family to attend college.

Roper attended Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, studying history. During this time, he was encouraged by the school's Dean of Students to pursue a career in university administration. While at Heidelberg, Roper also served as a resident assistant in a dormitory, his first foray into working with students. He received his bachelor's degree in 1975 and, one year later, he earned his master's degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University. From there Roper moved west, to Davis, California, where he worked in the housing department at UC-Davis. Roper later returned to the eastern United States to pursue his doctorate in college student personnel administration, completing his University of Maryland Ph.D. in 1988.

While working on his doctorate, Roper was employed as Associate Dean and Director of Residence Life at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the summer of 1988, Roper joined the administration of Beaver College (now Arcadia University), as its Dean of Students. A year later, Roper moved to St. John Fisher College, in Rochester, New York, assuming a position as the school's Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs. In 1989 he won the Emerging Professional Award from the American College Personnel Association.

Roper moved to Oregon State University in 1995 to take the position of Vice Provost for Student Affairs. The following year, he won OSU's Beaver Champion Award and also became a professor in the university's newly founded Ethnic Studies department. Soon after arriving on campus, Roper became involved with the formation of the "Campus Compact," a statement of the university's vision, values, and commitments. He likewise helped to build the first-year experience program, and took a leading role on OSU's first university-wide assessment committee. He later taught courses in OSU's College Student Services Administration graduate program.

Throughout his OSU career, Roper has been very involved in multicultural affairs, both on campus and in the Corvallis community. He created a course titled "Intervening the Isms," which focused on effective social action; helped to form a covenant ensuring the existence, in perpetuity, of the university's cultural centers; and frequently worked as a facilitator for a wide variety of conversations concerning issues of diversity at Oregon State.

Roper has likewise remained active in professional organizations. In 1997 he served as the program chair for the ACPA/NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) Convention, and in 1999 he became the editor of the NASPA Journal, a post that he held until 2002. He also worked as project director for the Leadership for Institutional Change in Higher Education Initiative, a grant project funded by the Kellogg Foundation. In 2000 he received the ACPA Senior Scholar Award and, in 2005, was named an ACPA Senior Scholar Diplomate. In 2006 he was awarded both the NASPA Outstanding Dean award and the University of Maryland's College of Education Outstanding Professional Educator Award.

Roper ended his time as OSU's Vice Provost for Student Affairs at the conclusion of the 2013-14 school year, having spent nineteen years in the role. Today, he is a professor in the School of Language, Culture, and Society, and coordinates both the College Student Services Administration program as well as OSU's undergraduate minor in social justice. A member of the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission, Roper also serves on the NASPA Board of Directors and is the editorial section editor of the Journal of College and Character.