Cooper, Executive Director of White House Initiative on HBCUs, Dies

George Cooper

George Cooper



By HBCU Digest
Special to the Outlook

George Cooper, a long-time HBCU administrator, former president of South Carolina State University, and primary liaison between the federal government and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, died Sunday, July 18.

The native Tallahasseean was regarded as a policy expert on agricultural program development and oversight, Cooper served as executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He was appointed in September 2013, along with Deputy Director Ivory Toldson, to advocate for enhanced federal funding for HBCUs and for new rules in federal student aid programs which, when changed by the federal government in late 2011, cost HBCUs more than $140 million collectively in tuition revenue.

“The White House Initiative on HBCUs is saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. George Cooper,” said Toldson. “Dr. Cooper provided the wisdom and direction needed to facilitate important partnerships between the nation’s HBCUs and the federal government. The staff of the WHI-HBCUs remembers Dr. Cooper as a caring and diplomatic leader who demonstrated insight, integrity, and thoughtful decision making. We have benefited from his leadership and will continue our service and advocacy for HBCUs in a manner that reflects his passion, persistence and humility.”

An alumnus of Florida A&M University and Tuskegee, Cooper held faculty and executive administrative positions at Alabama A&M University and Tuskegee before being appointed as Deputy Administrator for Science and Education Resources Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


In 2008, he was named as the 10th president of South Carolina State University, where he served for four years.


Hampton University President and Chairman of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs William R. Harvey lauded Dr. Cooper’s diligence and commitment to improving opportunities for HBCUs.


“Today we lost a leader, Dr. George Cooper. My most heartfelt condolences are with his wife Diane, with whom I spoke earlier today.”


“I have known George for almost 40 years. When I was administrative Vice President at Tuskegee University, he served on the faculty in the School of Veterinary Medicine. I first met him when he was asked to serve on the team preparing for the reaffirmation of Tuskegee’s accreditation. George was a worker, a hard, conscientious, energetic, and dependable worker. He served us well. He was thorough, focused and no-nonsense. Later, when Dr. Cooper became president of South Carolina State University, our paths crossed often. His wife Diane, my wife Norma, he and I became good friends. He will be sorely missed by the community he served.”

President Barack Obama said, “Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. George Cooper. George’s passing is a great loss for my administration, the HBCU and higher education communities and for everyone that knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Diane, family and friends during this difficult time.”


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