Monday, March 30, 2009
On a day filled with soaring themes of excellence, one simple notion resonated deeply — the bond between parent and child.
The theme of family surfaced multiple times during the inauguration of George Cooper as the 10th president of South Carolina State University. Student Whitney McCrea, president of the student government association, said of the president and first lady, "They chastise us when necessary, and praise us when we do well."
Patricia Lott, president of the national alumni association, pledged the support of the university's sons and daughters.
The investiture Friday was largely ceremonial, since Cooper became the president of the state's only public historically black university in July 2008. In that time, he has made a point of marketing the school to students of all races as a way to increase enrollment in tight budget times.
Members of the Board of Trustees solemnly clothed Cooper in the garnet and blue presidential regalia. Four chevrons on the sleeve indicate the office of president.
After Cooper was presented with the seal, medallion and mace, he greeted the audience. "I come to you today with joy and excitement," he said.
Cooper spoke of the future of land-grant universities that have the mission of meeting the needs of the public. "This public will constitute an older and more diverse pool of traditional students," he said. "The more mature adults will demand new and more relevant training."
He acknowledged the unconditional love of his wife of 41 years, Diane Shaw Cooper, and their daughters, Nikki and Carey. His 92-year-old father, Bertram Cooper, could not attend because of health reasons. "I thank him for making me the man I am today," he said.
"The phrase '10th president of S.C. State' may indeed be short, but the order is tall, very tall," he said. As president, he said he is expected to be an educator, a scholar, know about finance and construction and "to appear at all 2 million events that occur in an academic year looking sharp and refreshed."
Junior Linnie Garrett said, "He's not just a president with a title. We need someone to go out and ask for funds." Since July, S.C. State has lost $8 million, 34 percent of its state funding, as state revenues shrank by $1 billion.
Cooper came to S.C. State from his role as deputy administrator for Science and Education Resources Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he has held various positions since 1991.
He served as vice president for academic affairs and professor of animal science at Alabama A&M University from 1985 to 1991. He also worked at Tuskegee University from 1978 to 1985 as the dean of the School of Agriculture and dean of Home Economics and the School of Applied Sciences.
The ceremony closed with the singing of the alma mater. "We are loyal sons and daughters," the audience sang, raising their right hands in tempo.