An enthusiastic UNC School of Medicine community gathered with elected officials and leaders from UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina system Monday to celebrate the opening of Roper Hall, Carolina’s state-of-the-art new home for medical education.
Named for Bill Roper, MD, former School of Medicine dean, CEO of UNC Health, and interim president of the UNC system, Roper Hall offers innovative spaces where students can hone clinical skills and collaborate with learners from across the medical campus and state.
“This is a special evening to celebrate both our medical students and Dr. Bill Roper, who this building is named after,” said Wesley Burks, MD, dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health. “For our medical students, Roper Hall is built in a unique way – around you and your experience as a student here. It really is the beginning of your journey, as you go out from here to serve our patients and change how we practice medicine.”
More than 300 people attended the opening, including alumni, faculty, donors and medical students. Speaking at the event were Drs. Roper and Burks, along with UNC Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz, UNC System President Peter Hans, School of Medicine Executive Dean Cristen Page, MD, MPH, and medical student Theresa Dickerson, MD Candidate, Class of ’26.
Burks told the audience that the building reflects the career and legacy of an extraordinary health leader and pays homage to Roper’s lifelong dedication to the mission of high-quality healthcare.
“Who he is … that’s what expressed in this building, along with the care that we provide for our students, and the care that they will provide as they go out from here for the people of North Carolina and beyond,” Burks said.
Prior to the construction of Roper Hall, UNC medical students trained in Berryhill Hall, which previously stood on the same space off South Columbia Street and opened in 1970. In 2016, North Carolinians approved the Connect NC bond, from which $68 million would be allotted to help fund the new medical education building. Construction on the 172,000 square-foot structure began in early 2020, with many generous donors also contributing funds to shape the facility’s resources for student learning, connection and well-being.
“The work that will be done in this space is a reflection of Carolina’s unwavering commitment to serve through education and it will further empower Carolina’s pursuit of excellence as the leading global public research university in the nation,” Guskiewicz said. “Dr. Roper, thank you for your leadership, your mentorship and encouragement throughout my tenure and beyond. … The naming of this state-of-the-art facility really is a tribute to the impact that you’ve had on so many people here, and we’re grateful. You’re an inspiration, and I’m so excited that you are here to receive this amazing honor this evening.”
Roper Hall provides a full six floors of training space, featuring cutting-edge technology and intentionally crafted interiors, from large classrooms to dedicated seminar rooms, group and individual study spaces, a 240-person Active Learning Center, a student lounge, wellness center, and more.
“Unquestionably, this is the medical school of the people of North Carolina,” said Roper, as he took the podium to deliver remarks before receiving a standing ovation from attendees. “It’s a great personal honor for me that this building is named Roper Hall. But it’s been an even greater honor and a privilege for me to be able to work with all of you – and the wonderfully dedicated others – across more than a quarter of a century. Thank you very much.”
Though the event marked the official opening, Roper Hall is already open for classes, providing meeting and study space for both first- and second-year students. This fall’s newly admitted Class of 2027 stands at 204 learners and the School of Medicine – the largest medical school in the state – will continue expanding class size to an eventual 230 students per year.
Second-year medical student Theresa Dickerson, MD Candidate, Class of ’26, spoke about the vision and courage required “to sacrifice what we see now for what is to come.”
“As we open this new building, every time you walk past, I hope it reminds you of the power of vision and the courage it takes to see beyond what is in front of you,” Dickerson said. “On behalf of UNC medical students, I say thank you to the investment that has been made for our education and our future careers so that we can take care of the constituents of North Carolina.”
Written by Claire Horne, communications manager at the UNC Health Foundation.