By Nora Fitzgerald
In 2013, there were 140 candidates for the position of President of Springfield College. After a robust hiring process, Mary-Beth Cooper was selected to fill the role.
She would be the 13th president in the college’s history and the first female president.
“I wanted to be the president that I hoped my son had at his college,” said Cooper. As a leader, President Cooper makes a point to lead with compassion and concern. She entered this position with the intention of being student-centered and approachable
As she has settled into her role, Cooper reflected back on her earlier years. “I would say my upbringing certainly developed who I am as a leader and as a female leader,” she said.
Growing up with five older brothers in Rockville, Md. she quickly learned how to hold her own.
This independence is readily apparent in Cooper’s early adulthood.
After earning her B.A. from the University of Delaware in 1983, she would go on to receive a Master’s of Education in 1985 from the University of Georgia; a Doctorate of Education in 1997 from Michigan State University; a Master’s in Business Administration in 2001 from University of Rochester; and a Doctorate in Management in 2009 from Case Western Reserve University.
Clearly, President Cooper is no stranger to hard work. When asked how she balanced her career and education during these years, Cooper credits a lot of it to her husband, Dave.
“You’ve got to find the right partner that has the same goals and aspirations,” she said. Cooper feels grateful to have found her partner in ’86 while living in New York. “We’ve been a really good team,” she added, with a smile.
Dave Cooper, along with their chocolate lab, Jack, lives with Dr. Cooper on Alden Street. His role with the college thus far has mainly been one of support, while he continues to work in New York.
Cooper explained that her husband loves supporting the students in any way he can. Whether it be watching performances in Fuller Arts Center or cheering on our student-athletes, Dave Cooper is a dedicated member of the Springfield College community.
Cooper’s personal history with Springfield College actually began with her service to the YMCA. As a volunteer for 20-years, Cooper fell in love with the YMCA’s mission and the Humanics philosophy.
The Y continues to be a part of her career today. After a long break from teaching, Cooper is now teaching the YMCA Leadership course this semester at Springfield.
“They’ve had a really tough hit during the pandemic,” Cooper explained. “The course I’m teaching is designing the Y of 2025.” In this course, students are looking at how to engage members post-pandemic.
Cooper is hopeful that the future will bring positive change for women in male-dominated industries. “We are more than capable of leading an institution. We just bring our own gifts to the table.”
Going forward, Cooper hopes that some of the barriers women face in the workplace will start to diminish. She encourages men to realize and appreciate that women will be leaders, and that they will excel in these roles.
As for her career, Cooper does not plan on slowing down anytime soon. When she started at the University of Delaware, she was originally on a pre-law track. This goal was disrupted once she decided to pursue a career in higher education.
“I feel like you’re never too old to get another degree to advance to the next step,” she said. With online programs available, Mary Beth Cooper hopes to earn her JD and use it to help women and families with contracts and housing assignments.
“I don’t want it to impact my job here,” Cooper said. She fully intends to continue serving the Springfield College community and is eager to make more connections in the future once the campus is totally back in person with no restrictions.
“I feel really, really lucky to be the president here,” Cooper said. “There may be much uncertainty with the world going forward, but for now, Dr. Cooper plans on continuing her role here at Springfield with the student body’s best interest in mind.”
Photo: Springfield College