Dr. George E. Cooper prepares for the Presidency of SC State

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dr. George E. Cooper will officially cement his name as South Carolina State University’s 10th president later this month.

“I’m really excited about coming in. It’s just going to be an honor to serve,” Cooper said by phone Monday, (June 30, 2008).

Cooper, the deputy administrator for science and education resources development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, emerged from a field of more than 40 applicants to be named the next president of SC State. He will officially take his position on July 16.

Cooper says he wants his presidency to continue SC State’s tradition of being a student-centered university that engages the community.

“I’m looking forward to interacting with faculty, staff, students and the community,” he said.

In his first days at SC State. Cooper plans to meet with the administrative staff to assess the university’s strengths and challenges. So far, Cooper says he has had informal sessions with interim President Dr. Leonard McIntyre’s cabinet. He said McIntyre, who will assist him in the transition, has done a great job as interim president.

Cooper said he wants to emphasize several areas as SC State’s president, including fund-raising and state funding.

Cooper said funding is “a real challenge” as state revenues decline. To increase funding, Cooper says he wants to promote the university’s strengths and form strategic alliances with federal agencies and state lawmakers.

Cooper says he also wants to convince state lawmakers to fund the needs of the university that have not been addressed historically, such as deferred maintenance.

Additionally, he wants to enhance SC State’s partnerships with private business and the community.

Cooper says he will focus fund-raising activities on increasing support for need-based scholarships, as well as infrastructure and faculty development.

Cooper said it is also vital to look into the future and understand the impact that demographic changes can have on enrollment. While the university will be more diverse in the future, its role as a Historically Black College and University will remain unchanged, he said.

“As an HBCU, we provided opportunity to those that haven’t had opportunity,” Cooper said.

In addition, Cooper said accountability is a matter of great importance.

“We have to manage our resources for accountability. We have to be accountable to any entity that supports the university,” he said.

Cooper says there are “some interesting things happening,” at SC State, including the development of the James E. Clyburn Transportation Center. He also noted research opportunities in the areas of engineering and chemistry.

Cooper also touched on SC State’s athletic tradition, particularly in football.

“I would we hope would be conference champs,” he said. But Cooper said the first mission of the institution is to provide students with a strong academic background and mold them into outstanding citizens.

Cooper toured the campus and was introduced to faculty and staff two weeks ago. He says he came away even more impressed with the institution and the city of Orangeburg.

“We enjoy the city. All of our needs are going to be met,” Cooper said.

Cooper has been married for 40 years and has two children.

He is an avid photographer and picked up golf two years ago. He has also traveled extensively over the years, visiting every state in the country and several nations in Africa and South America.

When traveling, Cooper collects regional cookbooks and occasionally uses the recipes from them. He is active in his church in Silver Springs, Md. and enjoys yard work.

“I try to have a balanced life,” he said.

Professionally, he has been vice president of academic affairs at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Ala. and also a dean at Tuskegee University for eight years, where he supervised research and outreach for economics, construction, business and health programs.

In his current job at the USDA, Cooper is responsible for managing programs for minority colleges and universities. His agency manages a $145 million budget every year. It supports a broad range of activities such as student recruitment, faculty development and equipment purchases.