Roper made donations exceeding $1 million to the college throughout a life punctuated by generosity, vision and dedication to the community where he was raised.
“George Roper’s contributions to Tidewater Community College cannot be overstated,” said TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani. “Our students continue to benefit from his philanthropic efforts, which left a lasting footprint on the college and Hampton Roads. He will be greatly missed by his TCC family.”
A substantial donation in 2000 by Roper in honor of his late wife, Jeanne, made possible the restoration of the former Loews State Theater on Granby Street into what is today considered a cornerstone for the arts and education.
The TCC Board renamed the theater the Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center in 2001 in appreciation of his efforts.
“George Roper enabled a sad and neglected architectural treasure to be given new life for new generations,” said Paul Lasakow, executive director of the TCC Roper Center. “Because of his generosity, the Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center is now an elegant and functional theater, a center for higher education and a part of the fabric of the revitalized downtown Norfolk.”
Roper’s family was for years identified with the region’s shipbuilding industry. His grandfather, John W. Roper, founded Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Corp. in 1914, and George Roper II went to work there after serving in the U.S. Navy and graduating from electrician apprentice school in 1951.
In 1993, Roper founded the Hampton Roads Maritime Training Center and, in 1998, donated it to TCC. A year later, he purchased and donated equipment for the center, which is today a key component of TCC’s efforts to train employees for the local maritime industry.
“Making a contribution to a community college is the best decision I could make,” he wrote upon receiving the Chancellor’s Award for Leadership in Philanthropy from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education in 2008. “The role of the community college in the next decade will be to continue to educate the workforce and provide the region with skilled employees.”
Roper served on the TCC Educational Foundation Board, chaired college committees and was a regular speaker at its events.
He is survived by his wife, Rejeanne Julien Roper; his stepdaughter, Brigitte Poirier Charlebois; and his step-grandchildren Jeffrey, Alexandre, Audrey-Rose and Casandra Charlebois.
A visitation will be held Saturday from 1 to 2:30 p.m., with a service to follow at H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts., Laskin Road Chapel. Online condolences can be made at hdoliver.com.