New Scholarship Honors An American Hero
Posted on December 15, 2022
The University of South Alabama has collaborated with the 100 Black Men of Greater Mobile in establishing a new endowed scholarship honoring one of the city’s most prominent citizens, Maj. Gen. J. Gary Cooper.
“I am humbled by this honor,” Cooper said. “My goal has always been to provide opportunity to young people through education, and I hope this scholarship will make a difference in the lives of students at the University of South Alabama for many years to come.”
The idea for the scholarship emerged from University President Jo Bonner in a conversation between him and members of the 100 Black Men. The organization wanted to honor Cooper, one of its longest serving members and a longtime friend of Bonner.
"Maj. Gen. Cooper is an incredible man, and the work that he has done for this community, the state of Alabama and our country cannot be overstated. We are hopeful that this scholarship becomes a part of his legacy,” Bonner said.
The 100 Black Men seeded the scholarship with $10,000, making it eligible for the Mitchell-Moulton Scholarship matching funds. Bonner and his wife, Janée, committed an additional $2,500.
A Mobile native, Cooper received a degree in finance in 1958 from the University of Notre Dame and was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Later, while serving in Vietnam, he became the first Black officer in the Marine Corps to lead an infantry company into combat. While serving in Vietnam, Cooper received the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and three Vietnam Crosses of Gallantry. He has also been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.
In 1974, Cooper was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives and served until 1978 before serving as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Human Resources. His public service continued when in 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed him as assistant secretary of the Air Force. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Cooper ambassador to Jamaica. Cooper founded and sponsors the Hope Boxing Academy in Mobile, equipping at-risk youth with life skills and encouraging academic achievement.
“The 100 is honored to be in partnership with the University in recognizing a great leader and a great man through the establishment of this endowment,” said Dr. Andre Green, immediate past president of the 100 Black Men and associate vice president of Academic Affairs at South. “We look forward to maximizing this opportunity to support as many students as possible.”
University of South Alabama Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Mike Mitchell, who is also the immediate past vice president of the 100 Black Men of Greater Mobile, first learned about Cooper while going through boot camp in 1989 and studying Marine Corps history.
“General Cooper's name and contributions to the Corps were etched in my memory that summer during boot camp. I had no idea that 20 years later I would return to Mobile and the Marine that I had learned about so many years earlier would be a member of that 100 Black Men Chapter,” Mitchell said. “It was a full circle moment to meet him in person and to thank him for his leadership, representation and service.”
The 100 Black Men of Greater Mobile Major General J. Gary Cooper Endowed Scholarship will be awarded annually to a full-time freshman or sophomore student at the University who has completed at least 15 hours of coursework with at least a 3.0 GPA.
Preference will be given to students who participated in the Hope Boxing Academy, graduated from Mobile County Public Schools and are either serving or intend to serve in a branch of the military, including reserves.
You may contribute to the 100 Black Men of Greater Mobile Major General J. Gary Cooper Endowed Scholarship by visiting https://giving.southalabama.edu/cooper.
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