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Roper to Give NC State Winter Commencement Speech

Students celebrate commencement.
Students celebrate commencement.

Dr. William L. Roper, interim president of the University of North Carolina System, will deliver North Carolina State University’s commencement address on Thursday, Dec. 19 at 9 a.m. in the PNC Arena in Raleigh.

During the ceremony, Chancellor Randy Woodson will confer an honorary degree on Curtis Worth Fentress, an internationally known architect who has designed civic and government buildings, airports, museums and convention centers. NC State will livestream the event.

Before his appointment in 2018, Dr. Roper was dean of the School of Medicine and vice chancellor for medical affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill, and CEO of the UNC Health Care System. He previously served as dean of the School of Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill and as senior vice president of Prudential HealthCare. His experience includes stints as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on the senior White House staff, and as administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration.

He received his M.D. from the University of Alabama School of Medicine and his Master of Public Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. He completed his residency in pediatrics at the University of Colorado Medical Center.

Dr. Roper is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. In 2018 he was named to Modern Healthcare’s 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare, and he received the North Carolina Award for Public Service. He and his wife, pediatric oncologist Dr. Maryann Roper, live in Chapel Hill. They have one son.

Fentress graduated with honors from NC State with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1972, winning the Alpha Rho Chi Medal, an architectural school’s highest honor. He received a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2010. He is a fellow with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and member of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He received the AIA Thomas Jefferson Award and the AIA Western Mountain Region Silver Medal in 2010. He is the 2020 chair for AIA’s national Committee on Design.

Fentress began his career working with I.M. Pei. In the late 1970s, his work with Kohn Pedersen Fox led him to Denver, Colorado, as project designer for the 36-story Amoco Building. In 1980 he founded his own firm in Denver. By 1989 he was chosen to design the Jeppesen Terminal at Denver International Airport after submitting a design recognized around the world today and lauded as North America’s best airport.

Fentress has won 45 major design competitions. As an adjunct professor in the School of Architecture at NC State’s College of Design for six years, he has mentored the next generation. He conducts an annual Airport of the Future Global Challenge for architecture students. He co-founded the nonprofit Aerial Futures which has held global symposia on transportation design.