James Donald Cooper had a love for Delta State University that spanned decades and his passing on Saturday will leave void in many areas.
“James Donald Cooper was a lifelong Statesmen in every sense of the word, and one of the most active and loyal supporters Delta State has known,” said Delta State President William LaForge.
Cooper, who was the mayor of Boyle at the time of his death, grew up in Drew and graduated from what was then Delta State College with a bachelor of music education degree and a master’s of education.
While at Delta State, Cooper was a charter member of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity Zeta-Beta Chapter and the Phi Mu Alpha Music Fraternity.
“He was an engaged student at Delta State in the early ’60s, and was involved in the early days of the fraternity system. He was even an advisor to my fraternity chapter when I was in school. I am reminded often by his many friends how much his friendship meant throughout the years,” said LaForge.
He began his professional career at Delta State University in 1969, serving as admissions counselor, registrar and director of admissions.
He retired in 2001 and was bestowed the title of Registrar Emeritus for his many years of service.
“James Donald served Delta State in the Registrar’s Office for many years with great success, and he cared very much about our students,” said LaForge.
“He paid special tribute to them by attending every commencement exercise during the last six decades. He has left a lasting legacy as a Registrar Emeritus and dedicated Statesman that we will never forget.
“At our upcoming commencement in May, we will remember him with a moment of silence, knowing that he is looking in at another class of graduates as they leave a university that meant so much to him.”
In a past interview, Cooper told The Bolivar Commercial, “My biggest thrill was in helping children fulfill a dream — getting a college degree. I would see them come in as freshmen and four years later, I would watch proudly as they walked across the stage and got their diplomas.”
Vice President of University Relations at Delta State Michelle Roberts said, “I had the opportunity to interact with James Donald Cooper on many levels at Delta State…as a student, as a colleague, and as a friend.
“While I was a student at Delta State, I turned to Mr. Cooper for advice and assistance in maneuvering my way through the registration process and staying on track with my graduation plans,” she said.
Cooper previously had said he enjoyed working with students on their class schedules.
“If a student lacked a class or two, I would go to that teacher to see if there was any way they could help the student get their credits,” he said.
Roberts said, “As an employee, I had the pleasure of eating lunch with Mr. Cooper on a regular basis as a member of a special and unique organization (Alpha Sigma Sigma Epsilon Sigma) that met for lunch every day in the Student Union
“During the ten years that we worked together, I was able to observe the incredible impact he had on the university and the students. He had wonderful relationships with not only the people at Delta State, but also with his colleagues throughout the state and across the southeast U.S., who would send students to Delta State because they knew Mr. Cooper would take good care of them,” said Roberts.
“During the 16 years since Mr. Cooper’s retirement, he would continue to visit my office on a regular basis to reminisce and share his many ‘Cooper stories’ from his time at Delta State.
“Mr. Cooper was ‘Mr. Delta State’ in every way…as a student, employee, retiree, and supporter. His love, support, loyalty, and devotion to Delta State are unmatched, and his legacy as a true Statesman will not be forgotten,” said Roberts.
Cooper was elected as an alderman for Boyle in 2009 and was elected mayor in 2013.
He was also chair of the Delta Area Senior Golf Association.
Visitation will be held Friday from noon to 2 p.m. at Cleveland Funeral Home and the funeral service will follow at 2 p.m.
Memorials may be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38501; or to The James Donald Cooper Band Fund, Box 3141 DSU, Cleveland, MS 38733.
The online guest register may be viewed and signed at www.clevelandfuneralhome.net.