George Cooper, who served as executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as the president of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg from 2008 to 2012, and as the primary liaison between the federal government and historically black colleges and universities, died in the morning of Sunday, July 19, 2015. He was 68.
“George’s passing is a great loss for my administration, the HBCU, and higher education communities, and for everyone that knew him,” President Barack Obama said in a statement about Mr Cooper.
The cause of death has not been released, although W Franklin Evans, the interim president of South Carolina State said in a statement that the death of the university’s 10th president was “sudden and untimely”:
“Today, we honor and remember Dr Cooper for his unyielding service to our illustrious institution,” the statement read. “He served as president from 2008 until 2012. Under his leadership, he was instrumental in advancing progressive initiatives that served as the framework to strengthen the university and reaffirm its mission as a public land-grant university committed to enhancing the quality of lives for all citizens. He also envisioned the university as a formidable model amongst the best institutions of higher learning in the world.
“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students and alumni of SC State University, I extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Mrs Diane Shaw Cooper, and their daughters during this very difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Dr Cooper also served as deputy administrator for science and education resources development at the US Department of Agriculture, and in executive administrative positions at Alabama A&M University and Tuskegee. He held a bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry from Florida A&M University, a master’s degree in animal science from Tuskegee University, and a PhD in animal nutrition from the University of Illinois, Urbana. He also served on a number of boards and advisory groups, including the Orangeburg, S.C., Chamber of Commerce and the NCAA Limited Resource Institution Academic Advisory Group.
“Dr Cooper made a tremendous contribution that has benefited countless students in a full and extraordinary career,” wrote US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Throughout his life, Dr Cooper was committed to promoting excellence, innovation, and sustainability across our nation’s HBCUs. Dr Cooper provided the wisdom and direction needed to form important partnerships between HBCUs and the federal government. He was staunchly committed to student development and success.”