Educators have a special role in fostering confidence in their students as they learn. That’s the crux of the lifelong work and philanthropy from Eric J. Cooper (Ed.D. ’86), who with his wife has established the Dr. Eric J. Cooper and Dr. Carol A. Numrich Endowed Scholarship Fund to enable students to receive the TC education that has made such a difference in his life.
“We love Teachers College because it’s given us everything we needed,” explained Cooper, who with Numrich (Ed.D.’91) belongs to the College’s Grace Dodge Society — whose members have supported TC through their wills, trusts or through other planned gifts.
While Grace Dodge Society members gathered for a luncheon in early June, Cooper reflected on the organizations that he and Numrich have supported throughout their careers. “We felt it was really important to give back to TC what it has given to us.”
The president and founder of the National Urban Alliance (NUA), Cooper has led professional development for educators focused on building student competence and confidence in classrooms across the U.S. for 30 years. In 1993, NUA was founded at Teachers College in partnership with the College Board in response to data surrounding lower test scores among students of color.
As a young Black man who came to TC in the 1980s, Cooper contended with the repercussions of stereotype threat. He saw that his struggles with standardized testing and the racism he faced as a Black man with lighter skin and blue eyes had previously held him back. Consequently, he focused his research at TC and at the College Board on understanding how to equip others to overcome these types of obstacles.
Teachers saw the genius in me, and they mentored me and brought me along…Education is one aspect of American society that has the potential of leveling the playing field so all kids succeed.
Cooper excelled in graduate school, supported by faculty who recognized his talent, even though his test scores did not reflect his promise. As a result, Cooper is driven to improve opportunities for “kids like me who had not succeeded as much as they could have if teachers had given them the skills that they needed to reach the highest levels.“
While Cooper is supporting teachers through his work at NUA, he knows that supporting TC scholarships enables students to have the same opportunities to discover and build on their passions that he did — and further education equity.
With their endowed scholarship fund, Cooper and Numrich are taking actionable steps toward the College’s mission of creating a better world.
“We are so committed to the Grace Dodge Society,” explains Cooper, who takes the group’s namesake — TC’s founder — to heart. “What she stood for, Grace Dodge, is something I really believe in: maintaining that commitment and love for education.”