Dr. Walter Cooper will be the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration speaker at Keuka College Friday, April 11.
Dr. Cooper will discuss “Education Then and Now: How Historically Underrepresented Groups are Faring in the Current Climate” at 7 p.m. in Norton Chapel. It is free and open to the public.
A scientist, humanitarian, activist, and educator who was heavily involved in civil rights work both in Rochester and in Mali, Dr. Cooper received his bachelor’s degree from Washington and Jefferson College in 1951.
After briefly attending Howard University, he became the first African-American to earn a doctoral degree in physical chemistry from the University of Rochester in 1956.
That same year, Dr. Cooper was hired by Eastman Kodak as a research scientist and was promoted to senior research chemist, research associate, and technical associate. Named manager of the Office of Technical Communications in 1985, he oversaw the publications and technical reports of 2,300 scientific and research personnel and managed the Office of Research Innovation. He retired from Kodak in 1986.
Dr. Cooper served as the Rochester branch president for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and co-founded the Rochester branch of the Urban League in 1965 where he served on the Board of Directors into the 1970s. He was also a board member of the Baden Street Settlement, a non-profit organization working with northeast Rochester residents to improve the quality of life.
When the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was passed, Dr. Cooper took a leave of absence from Kodak to help form Action for a Better Community Inc. or ABC, an anti-poverty agency in Rochester. He served as the associate director for two years, then as executive director. The organization established a local version of the national Head Start Program, along with other aid programs.
Dr. Cooper established Rochester’s Sister City program with Bamako, Mali in 1975. As part of the program, he worked with the Rochester Institute of Technology to establish scholarships for students from Bamako. He was named a Knight of the National Order of Mali in 1981.
In 2005, he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from SUNY Geneseo. Three years later, Dr. Cooper received the Frederick Douglass award from the University of Rochester in recognition of his lifetime involvement in civil rights.
In 2010, Rochester City School No.10 was named the Dr. Walter Cooper Academy in his honor. The school emphasizes research and interactive learning, the methodology Cooper promoted during his time as a Regent of the State of New York and as the education committee chair of the Urban League of Rochester.