2019 Year-end Message from Rachel Warren

To The Cooper Union Community:  

I am pleased to deliver my annual year-end message on behalf of the Board of Trustees.  It’s an opportunity to share some news about the Board’s activities and updates on Trustees, past and present.  It’s also an opportunity to express gratitude.  We know that our recent progress is due in large part to all of you – the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors – who have come together to move this treasured institution forward.  At every turn, you have met challenges head on and exceeded expectations.   Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The sense of positive momentum among my fellow Trustees is strong and encouraging, and I’ve noted some highlights from this past year below.  In addition, we benefit from the input provided by the Staff and Faculty Representatives, and we thank them for their commitment to the school; serving in this role requires time and commitment, and we know those are scarce resources.  Finally, we commend President Laura Sparks.  Her inspired leadership – equal parts visionary and financial disciplinarian – has brought our community together and made us stronger and more vibrant.  April 2019 marked the 160th anniversary of Cooper Union, and our future is bright.  

In June, the Board approved an FY2020 budget consistent with the 10-year plan to return to full-tuition scholarships.  (An increase in expenses was more than offset by increases in budgeted revenues.)  As such, according to the plan, we were able to make the first planned increase in scholarship levels, for the 2019-2020 academic year, since tuition was instituted at Cooper in 2014.  With that increase, 77% of tuition, on average, will be covered for undergraduate students.  Students with demonstrated need (i.e. Pell eligible) receive 100% scholarships.  Equally important, for the second year in a row, we did not increase tuition rates. (Note: Minutes from all of our board meetings are available here.)

At our board meeting last week, we learned that our 2019-2020 enrolled class is exceptional by all measures.  Of particular note, in the Albert Nerken School of Engineering, the number of women enrolled in the first-year class rose to 40%, marking a significant improvement in gender diversity.   

Throughout the year, the Board has heard presentations from students and faculty members on all aspects of the important work being undertaken at Cooper Union.  From the powerful Climate Week programming curated by students and supported by members of the faculty and administration; to the launch last month of the groundbreaking Student Work Collection database in the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture; to the prestigious fellowships and honors awarded and competitions won by students and faculty, alike, the contributions and achievements of our community are extraordinary.  In addition, a continuing focus of the Board and the administration is the mental health and wellness of our students, and the school is instituting several programs this coming year to address these issues.

We were also proud to support important public programming in the Great Hall.  This semester alone there were events focused on climate change, the Electoral College, the death penalty, and immigration.  In honor of Black History Month, don’t miss the just-announced Women of Color on Broadway Live from The Cooper Union’s Great Hall featuring Tony Award winners LaChanze and Melba Moore.

Our current Board of Trustees continues to evolve.  At this time last year, we welcomed Dr. Dwight McBride to the Board.  Dwight was then Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Emory University.  This fall, Dwight was selected to fill the position of president for The New School, and he will roll off the Cooper Board this coming March.  We welcome Dwight as a neighbor, and I am confident that our two institutions will be collaborating on some exciting projects in the future. Peter Katz A ’76 rolled off the Board at the end of his term this December. We thank Peter and Dwight for their time, their ideas, and their commitment to The Cooper Union. 

We also brought on several new Trustees this year, including Pamela Flaherty, former President and CEO of the Citi Foundation and Director of Corporate Citizenship at Citi; Aftab Hussain EE ’97, Partner and Managing Director and head of the New Jersey office of The Boston Consulting Group; and Margaret Matz AR ’83 in her capacity as president of the Cooper Union Alumni Association (CUAA). Last week we elected Elizabeth Graziolo AR ’95, Partner, Peter Pennoyer Architects, to the Board as well.  Welcome to all!  Please click on their names to read their full bios.  

Sadly, we remember two Trustees who passed away this year.  Robert Bernhard, who served on The Cooper Union Board for 41 years, chairing it from 1995-2004, died in July; and Martin Trust, a 1956 School of Engineering graduate and member of the Board from 1989 to 2013, passed away in September.  Both men were pillars of their professions and their communities, including ours, and we once again extend our deepest condolences to their families.  

An end-of-year note cannot possibly report on all of the happenings of The Cooper Union, but our website does, and I encourage you to visit cooper.edu often for stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni and for the latest schedule of events and exhibitions.  You can also follow Cooper on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for news and updates.

Our journey this past year has been filled with accomplishments as well as reminders of the challenges that still lie ahead.  I am confident that, working together with common purpose and shared mission, we will continue to exceed our goals and your expectations.  
And now for my annual, last-minute holiday gift tip: a contribution before year’s end to Cooper’s Annual Fund will be the gift that keeps on giving… to our students, especially.  Click here to make your gift today.  And if you have already done so this season, thank you!

Thank you again for all that you do for The Cooper Union.  On behalf of your Board, I wish you a joyful holiday season and wondrous new year.  

Happy Holidays! 
Rachel L. Warren
Chair, Board of Trustees

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.