John Leeper's 2014 Wreath-Laying Remarks

Good afternoon Chairman Lincer, President Bharucha, Cooper Deans, Faculty, Students, and Fellow Alumni. I am John Leeper, Arch. ’85 and current president of the Cooper Union Alumni Association.

Today we celebrate the 223rd anniversary of Peter Cooper's birth. We recognize that this is an extraordinary moment for his greatest gift - the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.  

Cooper may only continue to hold its unique place in the world if all of the Cooper community works together. The Cooper Union Alumni Association is committed to working with the Cooper Union Board of Trustees, Administration, Faculty, Staff, and Students to place the institution solidly in the path of a sustainable future. That must be one based on a mission that embodies the tradition of the school that has given Cooper its place in the world.

In response to the Cooper Union Board of Trustee's recent decision to reaffirm their plan to charge tuition, the Council of the Alumni Association passed two resolutions.

The first asked the Board of Trustees to affirm that it is committed to working towards a full restoration of the full scholarship for all students, no matter how long that may take. The second asked that the Board of Trustees work with the Cooper community to determine the mission of the Cooper Union.  

We believe that now, it is most important for the Cooper Union to determine a mission that the Cooper community affirms. We cannot continue being divisive. The Cooper Union Mission Committee, announced by the Board of Trustees, will clearly define what Cooper is now and what it will become. It will engage and enroll the Cooper community so that we will all work together to assure that the Cooper Union retains a special place in the world that is based on the heritage started by Peter Cooper. The Cooper Union Alumni Association stands ready to participate in this most important work.

The Cooper Union Alumni Association will hold its annual Founder's Day Celebration on Sunday, April 13 of this year. Unlike prior celebrations, the CUAA is planning a block party, free and open to the public, and revenue neutral, that is at no cost to the school. We will recognize our alumni achievements as we do every year, but this year it is our intention that this event will be one in which the entire community can celebrate being part of the Cooper Union. We ask all of the Cooper Community to support us in this endeavor.

We ask that all members of the community embrace today’s occasion, work together as a community, and together chart a great future for the Cooper Union.

Thank you.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.