Created: April 1, 2021  |  Last Updated: April 1, 2021  |  Category: ,   |  Tagged:

The Life of Walter Cooper ’50, Ph.D.

Dr. Walter Cooper talks with W&J student Dejah Hall as he sits under his portrait and a quote of his in the lobby of the building named after him after the dedication of Dr. Walter Cooper í50 Hall October 2, 2020 on the campus of Washington & Jefferson College.

Walter Cooper ’50, Ph.D., has spent a lifetime championing science, education and civil rights in the lab, in the halls of academia, on the field, and in city neighborhoods. His contributions to his community are many, as are his distinguished accomplishments and honors. Below are just some of the highlights of his decades of work.

  • Graduates from Clairton High School, Clairton, Pa., in 1946. Named All-Monongahela Valley in football.
  • Earns full academic as well as football scholarship at W&J in 1946. Majors in chemistry, minors in physics and math. Becomes star athlete and student leader, eventually elected president of the College’s National Honor Society. Graduates in 1950.
  • Earns a Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1957 from the University of Rochester, the first African-American to do so at the university.
  • Research scientist at Eastman Kodak; receives three patents for photographic film chemistry; retires in 1986.
  • Founder, Action for a Better Community in Rochester, 1964.
  • Co-founds the National Urban League’s Rochester chapter, 1965.
  • President of the NAACP Rochester Branch.
  • Elected to Board of Regents, New York State Education Department.
  • Establishes Rochester’s Sister City program with Bamako, Mali, 1975; named a Knight of the National Order of Mali, 1981.
  • Receives W&J’s Distinguished Alumni Award, 1968; awarded honorary doctoral degree from W&J, 1987.
  • Elected to W&J’s board of trustees, 1975; named a trustee emeritus, 2000.
  • Named to W&J’s Athletic Hall of Fame, 2000.
  • Awarded honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by SUNY Geneseo, 2005.
  • Awarded Frederick Douglass Medal from the University of Rochester for his lifelong involvement in civil rights, 2008.
  • Rochester City School #10 is renamed the Dr. Walter Cooper Academy School #10, 2010.

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