A New Kind of Scholarship ... Serving CAP's Adult Members
People familiar with Civil Air Patrol won’t even have to ask who the new Cooper Fund is named for.
They’ll assume, correctly, that it had to be Col. Bryan Cooper and Lt. Col. Karen Cooper who put up the $50,000 to endow a scholarship fund that will assist adult members with education and training. After all, both Coopers got plenty of assistance from adults in CAP when they were cadets.
Now, it’s their turn to help other adult members.
“They’re just often forgotten,” Bryan Cooper said.
Kristina Jones, chief of philanthropy and CAP Foundation president and executive director, is excited by the establishment of the Cooper Fund – a new kind of scholarship.
“This is an exciting scholarship opportunity for CAP and the first to truly focus on our adult members in education and training,” Jones said. “We are grateful for the leadership and commitment of the Coopers in creating this endowment.”
The CAP couple look forward to the first distribution from the Cooper Fund in 2024.
Their Civil Air Patrol resume is a long one, including the 1976 Rhode Island Wing Encampment, where she was cadet commander and he was a first-time cadet.
Here's how Bryan Cooper describes their first meeting.
“She was yelling at me,” he said, “so ‘met’ may be a misleading term.”
They worked as colleagues another year at the Rhode Island Wing Cadet Leadership Academy, hit it off, eventually married, and have one adult son.
Karen Cooper is Northeast Region deputy chief of staff for aerospace education and CAP’s national aerospace education assistant manager.
Bryan Cooper is Northeast Region character development officer and assistant deputy chief of staff for aerospace education. His primary duty assignment is national chief of education and training.
“If you want something done, ask a busy person” is her explanation for their packed schedules.
Over the years, Karen Cooper has been involved not only with cadet programs and aerospace education but also the Rhode Island Wing’s inspector general and communications offices, among other roles.
Bryan Cooper came to wing headquarters to serve in emergency services but moved over to what’s now known as education and training and has filled other slots as well — including stints as wing commander in 2010 and 2011.
He spent 11 years as national senior programs officer and served a brief stint as community action program officer. He has also served on staff at Cadet Officer School and the National Cadet Competition.
The two were drawn to Civil Air Patrol from different directions. She joined in October 1971 after attending a recruiting drive at a local airport and becoming interested in the search and rescue program.
Aerospace education is now a prominent part of Karen Cooper’s focus as a CAP member. In a 2022 interview she said she enjoys inspiring youths’ interest in aerospace and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects because she wants them to have as much fun as she did exploring those fields.
"A few years ago, I suddenly realized that I am STEM,” she said. “Between my college degrees, my profession, my interests, and my hobbies, I have actively been part of all four letters in STEM."
Three times in the late 1990s, the Rhode Island Wing was recognized with a National Aerospace Education Award because of her work. Her wing commander wanted her to accept the awards, but she asked that they be accepted on behalf of the entire wing.
“I still have them,” she said.
A member since October 1975, Bryan Cooper joined through a neighborhood group of friends. One friend joined CAP, then brought in another friend, and that friend recruited a third friend.
“I was the last in the chain,” Bryan Cooper said, and also the only one who’s still a member.
In the 2022 interview, Karen Cooper joked about how their dedication to and involvement in CAP has played out.
“That has created a ‘volunteer-by-marriage’ scenario, since we do support each other’s interests,” she said. “He frequently gets involved in my AE activities, and it is fun working together.”