New Delta College endowment will honor longtime teacher, tutor

BAY CITY, MI – The family of a longtime Delta College faculty member is establishing a new endowment fund that will provide scholarships to “underserved” students in her honor.

Mary Jane Cooper, who worked at Delta for more than 20 years and once directed the college’s Teaching Learning Center, died July 27 at age 83, according to her obituary.

Cooper felt very strongly about her students and worked to make sure they got the right tutoring for their needs, said Pam Clark, executive director of institutional advancement. Even if they didn’t know her name, lots of students likely new her as the nice lady who would always help them prepare for a test, she said.

Chris Cooper, Mary Jane’s son, said his family decided to work with Delta to develop the fund in his mother’s name and honor her commitment to learning.

“We felt strongly about it for lots of reasons,” Cooper said. “I also think importantly, none of the family members live in the tri-county area anymore and our parents lived their entire lives, their parents lived their entire lives, and even many of the great grandparents lived their entire lives in Bay City. That wealth that we inherited came from Bay City, and we wanted to make sure there was at least a modest expression of our gratitude… that would continue to help Bay City.”

With an initial investment of about $30,000, the Mary Jane Cooper Scholarship Endowment should enable one to two $1,000 annual awards for students with the greatest need, Clark said. Endowment funds exist in perpetuity by only using the interest generated by the initial sum’s investment for grants. Some endowment funds that date back to the college’s opening in the early 1960s are still operating, she said.

The grant requirements are fairly broad to allow the funds to go to whoever needs them most, Clark said. Applicants must have a 2.5 GPA or higher, be from Saginaw, Bay or Midland counties and have a demonstrated financial need.

Access to affordable college through Delta is one of the best community assets in the Great Lakes Bay Region, Cooper said. Cooper, who holds an associate’s degree from Delta, said the college’s two-year program allowed him to work full time and save enough money to pursue a master’s degree in an accelerated graduate program. He couldn’t have done it otherwise, he said.

“It was the only way that I was able to afford and enable myself to go to the University of Michigan, and be able to pay for it,” Cooper said. “Coming from a family of two educators, we didn’t have a lot of money.”

The Delta College Board of Trustees will formally approve the fund Wednesday, Dec. 2, Clark said. To make a donation to the fund or the college, click here.

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