The Cooper Union Celebrates Its 150th Anniversary
One hundred and fifty years ago Peter Cooper, a true urban visionary, established The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art with the belief that all who qualify should have the opportunity for a college education of the highest quality and to the possibilities that it offers. His outrageously radical idea, then and now, was to provide access to excellence in education based only on merit, to prohibit discrimination with respect to race, religion or gender and to provide every student with a full-tuition scholarship.
This year to honor Peter Cooper’s bold vision and his inspiring legacy, The Cooper Union reaffirmed its commitment to the full tuition scholarship policy. This date marked Peter Cooper’s 218th birthday and the launch of Cooper Union’s 150th anniversary celebration. We have planned a yearlong series of exciting events, exhibitions and cultural activities commemorating Cooper Union’s dedication to academic excellence and its contributions to the City, to the nation and to the human condition. “Great Evenings in the Great Hall,” a special eight-part series, is a hallmark Cooper Union sesquicentennial program. For a century and a half, Cooper Union’s Great Hall has stood as a bastion of free speech and has fueled changes in American history, from the abolitionists (Frederick Douglass) and women’s rights activists (Susan B. Anthony) to the birth of the NAACP (W.E.B. Dubois) and the American Red Cross (Clara Barton). A diverse range of actors and New York City literary figures will reenact many of the famous speeches delivered from this historic venue.
From exploring societal issues and stimulating political discourse to recognizing the accomplishments of its pioneering alumni, Cooper Union has been and continues to be a force for innovation and change. Over its 150 years, The Cooper Union has educated the leaders who developed the microchip prototype, pioneered cancer detection processes and designed signature buildings here and abroad. Among its graduates are some of the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The tradition continues, as recent students have won a vastly disproportionate share of prestigious national awards, fellowships and honors, including 29 Fulbright Scholarships since 2001 and 11 National Science Foundation Fellowships since 2004, making us among the nation’s largest producers of both of these awards.
Looking to the future, Cooper Union’s new state-of-the-art academic facility at 41 Cooper Square—New York City’s first green academic laboratory building—will open in time for classes this fall, with a ribbon cutting scheduled for September 15, 2009. Designed by 2005 Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne, the new academic facility will house the Albert Nerken School of Engineering and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences along with technology intensive facilities to support the School of Art and the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture. The nine-story, full-block building will feature reconfigurable, state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories, studios and public spaces.
Cooper Union’s 150th anniversary celebration reflects the college’s storied past and its promising future. We hope that you can join us during this joyous year of celebration. The Cooper Union website provides you with details about the upcoming 150th anniversary events www.cooper.edu. It would be great to see you at the festivities.#
Dr. George Campbell, Jr. is President of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.