Richard Lincer's 2014 Wreath-Laying Remarks

Thank you John and President Bharucha.  While I have met many of you since I became chairman of the board of trustees in December, for those of you whom I’ve not yet met in person, I’m Rich Lincer.

Peter Cooper saw education as a path to social mobility for the working classes.  Indeed, as those of you who have heard me declaim on the subject know, it is Cooper Union which gave my father that opportunity – to a successful career as a structural engineer which in turn allowed my brother and me to achieve our own professional success.  And that is why, although not an alumnus, I am so gratefully devoted to Cooper Union and all that it stands for.

Cooper also saw the college as an instrument to forge the communal values that are the basis of true citizenship – compassionate concern for all others, faith in the ability of the human spirit to triumph over adversity, and a commitment to using all our skills and abilities to advance the human good.

The past year has been one that tested the sense of community at Cooper.  There have been strong feelings on all sides and the cacophony has, in its disregard of the tradition of civil discourse, at times threatened to drown out any possibility for constructive dialogue.  Hopefully, as John noted, we can now move past that acrimony and unproductive division while still appreciating and acknowledging rather than deprecating the diversity of viewpoints.

While the new era in which we find ourselves mandates innovation, the challenge is to consider how Cooper can adapt to the current realities – both in its own circumstances and in its fields of endeavor in art, architecture and engineering – while reaffirming the tradition of excellence we have nurtured so that we can, together, return the school to financial stability without sacrificing its unique and treasured identity.  Foremost among those elements are admission based solely on merit, ensuring access to quality higher education for students from all socio-economic backgrounds and seeking over time, as and when our resources allow, to continue to increase the overall tuition scholarship.

As we undertook in the board statement after our January meeting, our mission committee, in seeking to clarify the application of the principles inherent in Cooper’s founding to the 21st century, will look to engage the Cooper community – students, faculty, administration, staff, alumni and friends – in a process that is inclusive and transparent.

The challenge before us is not one that will be surmounted quickly or easily (we should not delude ourselves into pretending otherwise), and the magnitude of the funds required is daunting, but I and the board of trustees look forward to working with all of you and the rest of the Cooper community as we rededicate ourselves to this worthy endeavor

  • 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.