Rose Cooper, a past president of the American Counseling Association and a longtime champion for the profession, died on Dec. 4 after a brief illness. A former school counselor and counselor educator, Cooper was 96 when she passed away at her home in White Plains, New York. She retired only last year from her longtime position as dean at Westchester Community College.
In addition to her many professional accomplishments, Cooper will be remembered most for the passion and care she put into each project and interaction with students and colleagues.
“I cannot believe she has left us. But in reality, she has not, because she has left us such a tremendous legacy of caring service and dedication to the profession,” says A. Scott McGowan, a senior professor emeritus at Long Island University and former editor of the Journal of Counseling & Development. “Wonderful counselor, high-impact college administrator, dedicated friend and loving person — that is Rose Cooper. She was assertive but sensitive and the ultimate in terms of opening possibilities for her students and clients.”
Cooper was president of ACA, then called the American Association for Counseling and Development, from 1985 to 1986. She also served as president of Chi Sigma Iota, the international counseling academic and professional honor society, in 1991-1992, and led the New York state branch of ACA. In 2013, she was named an ACA fellow.
Cooper was first in line in a succession of ACA presidents known affectionately as the “three C’s,” which also included David Capuzzi and Brooke Collison. “One of the outstanding things about Rose was the generosity and kindness she extended to those around her,” says Capuzzi, who was one of the many ACA presidents Cooper invited to stay at her White Plains home.
Cooper was warm and caring, but at the same time, driven and known for speaking her mind. She also had a flair for fashion and was famous for traveling to professional events with a small flotilla of luggage.
Sunny Vassos, a past member of the ACA Governing Council, says she will most remember her lifelong friend’s character, generosity and passion. “She shared with everyone. … No job was too big or too small. She was a perfectionist who did it all with no anxiety and great creativity and style,” Vassos says. “Rose was a rare and unique individual. We all know [her] solid academic background, but it was her caring, her passion for ACA and New York state, and her wit and deadpan humor inserted into her speeches that will be remembered.”
“Rose had a wonderful sense of humor and a very quick wit,” confirms Capuzzi, a licensed professional counselor and core faculty member of clinical mental health counseling at Walden University. “She could say things that no one else could say in a way that was entertaining and made others smile. I always used to sit next to her in the past presidents’ meetings during ACA conferences. She would always nudge me and say, ‘David, do we still look as good as those other ACA past presidents?’ I would always reply, ‘Oh, yes, Rose, and you look better than all of us!’”
Cooper worked as a school counselor at White Plains High School for many years before starting an equally lengthy tenure at Westchester Community College. She was dean of the college’s night program, remembers McGowan. “Her friends kiddingly called her the ‘dean of the dark’ because of her work-time schedule [at the night program],” he says. “But in fact, she was dean of light — making a most positive influence on the lives of the students at that institution, many of whom were adults who worked full time and went to evening college to become even more productive and educated people.”
Numerous people — from her students to professionals across ACA — also call Cooper a mentor. “I will never forget Rose and the positive and delightful impact she had on my life,” Capuzzi says. “She will be missed by all who knew her as a friend or professional colleague.”
Cooper was born in Poland and immigrated to New York City at age 12. She settled in White Plains with her husband and family after obtaining a doctorate in education from Columbia University.
In addition to her sister, Ann Kaplan of New York City, she is survived by her daughter, Gale Cooper of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and her son, Glenn Cooper, his wife, Tessa and their son, Shane, of Sarasota, Florida.
Many of Cooper’s former colleagues, including ACA CEO Richard Yep, attended her funeral, held Dec. 10 in White Plains.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent in Cooper’s memory to Westchester Community College Foundation, Hartford Hall, 75 Grasslands Road, Valhalla, NY 10595.