NBA pioneer Chuck Cooper’s legacy continues

HEAVY WORK—Chuck Cooper Foundation Honorees, Evan Frazier and Dr. Kathy Humphrey. Frazier is Senior Vice President of Community Affairs at Highmark Health, and Dr. Humphrey is Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Secretary of the Board of Trustees at the University of Pittsburgh. (Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

Legacy, leadership and commitment were three words consistently used during the Chuck Cooper Foundation Awards Luncheon, held at the Lexus Club at PPG Paints Arena, April 9. The event pays tribute to former Duquesne University star, NBA pioneer and community leader Charles “Chuck” Cooper.
Honored during the 8th annual luncheon was Dr. Kathy Humphrey, Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Secretary of the Board of Trustees at the University of Pittsburgh, and Evan Frazier, Senior Vice President of Community Affairs at Highmark Health. Dr. Humphrey received the Chuck Cooper Foundation Leadership Award, and Frazier received the Chuck Cooper Foundation Trailblazer Award. The foundation also presented more than $40,000 in scholarships to nine graduate-level students from Pittsburgh-area colleges with each receiving at least $4,000.
CONTINUING A LEGACY—Chuck Cooper III, founder and president of the Chuck Cooper Foundation, and his daughter, Charlise, share a moment during the 8th Annual Chuck Cooper Foundation Awards Luncheon.

“This is my favorite day of the year,” said Chuck Cooper III, founder and president of the Chuck Cooper Foundation and son of the first African American drafted into the National Basketball Association. “I get a chance to share this day with some tremendous people. We are so blessed and honored to have the community we have in Pittsburgh. What we are able to do with our foundation would not be possible without the tremendous support and commitment we receive from our corporate and community partners. I am so grateful to be able to honor my father’s legacy and to share his deep commitment and passion for education, and immensely so this year.”
Founded in 2011, the mission of the Chuck Cooper Foundation is to continue the legacy of Cooper by awarding graduate-level scholarships and providing comprehensive leadership development, professional skills and opportunities to underserved students. The goal of the non-profit organization is to propel students to success in higher education to achieve their highest potential in their careers and, ultimately, in life.
The foundation also provides leadership development and mentoring opportunities to scholars as part of the Cooper Leadership Program with the goal to support underserved students as they strive to achieve their educational and professional goals on the way to reaching their highest potential.
Operated in three phases, the program includes a series of workshops, speakers, mentoring, networking and community outreach. The phases existing at the graduate, undergraduate and high school/middle school levels create the opportunity for college students to practice leadership skills and gain a sense of accomplishment while serving as role models for students in the lower levels, inspiring them to achieve at the college level.
The nine graduate scholarship recipients were: Felicia Campbell, University of Pittsburgh; Armani Davis, Robert Morris University; Kayla Dyson, University of Pittsburgh; Darnell Grate, Point Park University; Kenya Johns, Duquesne University; Kerven Moon, University of Pittsburgh; Lorretta Sackey, Carnegie Mellon University; Johnathan Jevon White, University of Pittsburgh; and Nubia Williams, Duquesne University.
2018 SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS—More than $40,000 in scholarships were presented to graduate-level students from Pittsburgh-area colleges. Chuck Cooper III, right, stands with recipients. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)

While deeply honored to accept the 2018 Chuck Cooper Foundation Leadership Award, Dr. Humphrey advised the scholarship awardees and young people in the audience that her expectations of them is success and that her greatest hope is that they play a significant role within their own families, community, and for some to make a difference maybe within the state, nationally and in the world.
Dr. Humphrey oversees Pitt’s internal and external relations focusing on facilitating business engagement, strategic initiatives and partnerships and government interaction.
Also honored to receive the Chuck Cooper Foundation Trailblazer Award, Frazier acknowledged Chuck Cooper III’s spirit and what he’s doing through the foundation. “I really admire him, not only for honoring his father’s inspiring legacy, but for investing in our community in meaningful and tangible ways. The Chuck Cooper Foundation is making important investments in our future talent and significant contributions to the overall development of our community.”
WTAE-TV news personality Andrew Stockey served as emcee of the event and other participants included; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Chuck Cooper Foundation volunteer Robert Hinton, former Chuck Cooper Foundation Scholarship Recipient Aster Teclay, and two-time Chuck Cooper Foundation scholarship recipient Armani Davis.
Chuck Cooper, a Pittsburgh native, played in the NBA for six seasons with the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Hawks and Fort Wayne Pistons. He helped lead his teams to the playoffs five times, including 1956 when the Pistons advanced to the NBA Finals. During his days at Duquesne, Cooper led the Dukes to a 78-19 record and two appearances in the National Invitational Tournament in three seasons. His uniform number (15) was retired by Duquesne in 2001 and hangs at the team’s home court, the A.J. Palumbo Center. Also, a building located on Fifth Avenue on the campus was named in his honor in 2011.
After his basketball career, Cooper went on to become Pittsburgh’s first African American department head when Mayor Pete Flaherty selected him to lead the Parks and Recreation Department in 1970. He later enjoyed a successful career as a community development officer for Pittsburgh National Bank.
Cooper passed away in 1984 at age 57.
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