Friday, July 18, 2008
As South Carolina State University’s 10th president, Dr. George E. Cooper, introduced himself to the Orangeburg community Thursday, he cautioned the institution cannot be complacent and must take risks in reaching its goals.
“It’s not going to be an easy job, but as a team we can achieve greatness,” Cooper told a packed audience that flooded into the university’s State Room.
Cooper cast his vision for S.C. State to be a student-centered campus that will be accountable and embrace diversity.
The former USDA administrator introduced his wife of 40 years, Diane, who said her impression of the university “was love at first sight.”
Stakeholders are hoping Cooper will demonstrate a similar, long-term commitment to the institution.
Ellen Robinson Ricoma, director of quality assurance at S.C. State, has faith Cooper will do just that.
“He seems to be a man on a mission, and I see him taking the university to the next level. His work ethic is inspiring,” she said.
Cooper outlined his definition of the next level as not only being competitive with other historically black universities but all higher education institutions in the state.
Rising senior Rahn Scott feels that with Cooper at the helm, S.C. State will rise to the same stature as Clemson and USC.
“We should be on that level,” Scott said.
The road to yesterday’s formal introduction of Cooper as S.C. State’s president was a long one for board Chairman Maurice Washington.
Last December, Washington took the bulk of the criticism for the board’s decision not to renew former president Dr. Andrew Hugine’s contract.
He described the events of the past months as a mixture of different emotions that have made him and his fellow trustees stronger, tougher and wiser.
Washington, who chaired the search committee, expressed great enthusiasm for the future under the leadership of Cooper and board Chair-elect Lumus Byrd, who takes over in September.
“We’re going to do and accomplish some great things going forward,” Washington said.
Byrd believes Cooper and the board are already forming a cohesive partnership.
“It seems to me we’re not only on the same page, we’re on the same paragraph, we’re on the same sentence and we’re on the same word,” he said.
Search committee member and state Rep. Lonnie Hosey, D-Barnwell, thinks Cooper was a solid choice and his presidency will benefit the community, state and nation.
“As time evolves, change is necessary, and he will bring some changes to the university,” Hosey said, calling Cooper a man of sincerity and integrity.
S.C. State alumna Dr. Beverly McCullough liked Cooper’s presentation and that he was well-spoken.
“His wife is really nice, too,” she added.
McCullough is optimistic Cooper can strengthen the university’s academic and athletic programs.
Recently returning home from a military campaign in Afghanistan, Alex Conyers thinks Cooper “comes with a lot of experience.” Conyers hopes that experience can be leveraged into great things for S.C. State.
He did note that Cooper will face challenges like fund-raising, building infrastructure and bringing the university community together after the Hugine era.
Rivelon Elementary School teacher Delores Frazier said she was impressed by Cooper’s genuine nature. She said his goals for the university were in sync with her own.
Cooper’s first day as president was Wednesday, which he called “a great day.”
“Today has been even better,” he said of his second.
As Cooper’s days in office mount up, so will expectations.
However, he will not have to meet the expectations alone.
“I’m willing to help him as much as I can,” said Hosey, answering Cooper’s call for teamwork.