A "GREAT" First Day

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Shaking Hands

Most people are asleep at 3:30 a.m.

In the case of South Carolina State University President Dr. George E. Cooper, it’s an everyday occurrence for him to wake up at that time.

Wednesday was no different. Except on that day he woke up as the university’s 10th president.

“I’ve done that most of my life ... I’m not really a night person,” Cooper said of his early morning routine.

Before taking his first steps in the office where he’ll undoubtedly spend countless hours, Cooper took a 5 a.m. walk around the track on campus.

Two hours later, he became acquainted with the staff in his office. He lauded their positive attitudes and work ethic. With his tenure barely hours old, Cooper was astounded by how many people already recognize him as the president on campus.

“I’ve been received well,” said Cooper, who left his post as an administrator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take the S.C. State president’s job.

Cooper cited fund-raising as a top priority during his campus interview for the position in late April. During that time, he also met Gracia Dawson, an alumna and wife of the late Bulldog Coach Oliver C. Dawson.

Cooper enjoyed her stories about how Dawson grew up on the campus and is now the oldest living Miss South Carolina State.

By 10 a.m. Wednesday, Cooper and Dawson got reacquainted and several minutes later he received the first donation of his presidency from her.

“It’s really great that alumni and friends support a number of activities at the university. I hope this commitment encourages others to do the same,” Cooper said.

Following his meeting with Dawson, Bulldog Football Coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough came by Cooper’s office to welcome him to the university.

Cooper then introduced himself to students on campus before holding sessions with Senior Vice President of Finance John Smalls and former interim President Dr. Leonard McIntyre.

He said those meetings helped him understand the big issues facing S.C. State as it moves forward.

“It’s been a great first day,” he said.

Cooper said he wants to give back to the Orangeburg community the same way he did in his former home of Maryland, where he served in a mentoring program at his church.

“As I interact with people and become engaged with the community, I’ll find out just how I can use my passion,” he said.

He’s also looking forward to meeting with state, local and community leaders.

Cooper said he is still learning his way around Orangeburg.

“It’s been a self-discovery process. ... I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen,” he said.

Currently, Cooper is staying on campus while he looks for a house in Orangeburg. He said he enjoys his temporary residence because it gives him a chance to meet students.

He looks forward to the fall when all the students return and athletic events are in full swing. Cooper even predicted a Bulldog victory when the team travels to play Clemson on Sept. 20 in football.

“I’m looking forward to all the challenges, all the opportunities that will allow S.C. State to be a great state university,” he said.