The University of Michigan’s planned Central Campus housing development will include a building that honors a longtime campus leader who championed inclusivity and student well-being.
The Board of Regents voted Sept. 21 to name a 482-bed residence hall after E. Royster Harper, vice president emerita for student life.
The hall is the first building in the project to receive a name, and the first building on U-M’s campus to be named after a Black woman.
“Vice President Harper is one of the finest professionals in my tenure at Michigan that I’ve ever worked with,” Regent Denise Ilitch said. “We were so fortunate to have her, our students were fortunate to have her, and I’m so very proud to be part of naming a building after you, Royster.”
Dr. E. Royster Harper Hall will be one of five residential buildings that make up the 2,300-bed housing and dining complex on Central Campus. It will be built near the intersection of Hoover Avenue and Division Street.
Harper was vice president for student life for 18 years before retiring in December 2019. She previously served as associate vice president and senior associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, assistant to the vice president for academic affairs and assistant to the LSA dean, and director of the Opportunity Program and the Comprehensive Studies Program in a career that spanned more than four decades.
Harper was known for her dedication to student success. She led efforts to prevent sexual misconduct, expand mental health resources and grow U-M’s residence hall system. Her leadership in two phases of the Residential Life Initiative resulted in the construction of the North Quad residential and academic complex and the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center.
Harper’s impact can be seen in several other areas as well, from gender-inclusive bathrooms and residential spaces to renovations of the Michigan Union, Michigan League and Recreational Sports facilities, expanded living-learning options and the Blavin Scholars program.
Regent Katherine White said the naming recognizes Harper’s monumental contribution to the university.
“Royster, there is no way to really fully appreciate you and everything that you did commit to the University of Michigan throughout your career,” she said. “This is something we could do, but you gave us so much more. And we’re all so grateful.
“We miss you dearly, and I hope this gives you some joy that you can share with your friends and family.”
In recommending that the hall be named after Harper, Geoffrey Chatas, executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Martino Harmon, vice president for student life, said she “continually worked to improve the student experience through her advocacy and passion.”
“She truly set the standard for student life leaders in higher education,” they wrote.
Harper attended the meeting but did not speak publicly.
Almost exactly one year earlier, at the Sept. 22, 2022, Board of Regents meeting, the regents surprised Harper by voting to name a future residence hall in her honor. The news left her in happy tears.
“I don’t have any words to express my deep appreciation, not only for this honor, but for what the university did for me so many years ago,” Harper, a U-M alumna, said then. “It changed the trajectory of my life.”
The Central Campus housing project will address the need for more affordable housing for first-year students. Along with student living spaces, the project will include a 900-seat dining facility with a geothermal-exchange heating and cooling system, green courtyards and quadrangles, a broad pedestrian walkway, spaces for student activities and several sustainability features.
It will be the first residential facility built specifically for first-year students since 1963.