The Janice M. Roper Endowed Memorial Scholarship was established by Rachel Parker and her husband Tim to honor Roper’s passion for education and her nursing career. The scholarship will support pre-licensure students in the Bachelor of Science or Masters Entry Clinical Nursing programs, and Advanced Practice RN students. Its mission: to encourage nursing students, especially those from rural communities—like Roper, and those with an interest in diabetes care—a tribute to Roper’s granddaughter, who has type 1 diabetes.
Janice M. Roper grew up in the rural town of Booneville, Iowa with her brother and three sisters. “It was a hard scrabble life,” her daughter Rachel Parker recalls. “There are photographs of the girls as toddlers wearing dresses made from flour sacks.” Though Roper’s father coped with limited mobility, the family ran a farm and a little store. Her mother worked for the post office.
Booneville had a one-room schoolhouse with only three children in Roper’s grade. “Despite that modest start, when she graduated from the eighth grade, she had the highest grades in Dallas County,” Parker says. “When she graduated from Van Meter High School, she was valedictorian of the class.”
Post-graduation, Roper received her RN from Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines. Added to the mix: Roper got married, became a mother of two, moved to Hawaii, and then, in 1963, to Los Angeles. In LA, she became a floor nurse at the Veterans Administration (VA), a position that would ultimately shape her future. The sage words from the VA staff – to advance her career, she’d need a bachelor’s of science degree – led Roper to attain her bachelors. It was in 1970 when Janice landed at UCLA, where she earned her Masters of Nursing with a focus on psychology. “She was working with vets who’d come back from Vietnam with PTSD [post-traumatic stress syndrome],” Parker says of Roper’s specialization. “Learning about caring for people with trauma disorders was important to her.” Something Roper did at the VA, all the while moving up the ranks over her 45-year tenure.
The drive to continue her education saw Roper back at UCLA, earning her Ph.D. in social anthropology. Her upbringing had ingrained an interest in how rural communities cared for their sick, leading to a focus on medical practices in traditional farming and Native American communities in California. A book sprang from these studies, Ethnography in Nursing Research, co-authored with Jill Shapira.
Teaching was a natural foray for Roper, who took to the lectern at the UCLA School of Nursing. Eventually, Roper retired — something she wasn’t quite ready to embrace. “There’s more in me,” she told Parker. “I want to help young nurses understand their careers.”
An opportunity arose through a nursing program in Long Beach where students from less developed countries in Asia and the Middle East learned American nursing practices, including how to navigate their careers back in their home countries.
As she reflected on her life, Roper often told her kids she’d “done pretty good for a little girl from a little town in Iowa.” Parker’s thoughts, “We think so, too.”
After Roper passed away from Alzheimer’s, her family knew her desire to help nurses should continue. “Education, to her, was a way to improve your life and be an active member of society,” Parker says. Something Roper’s family hopes the scholarship will help continue for other nurses.