The Julia Nell Cooper Memorial Nursing Scholarship, worth $200,000, will support West Virginia University School of Nursing students. The scholarship gift was created by Cooper's son and WVU alumnus, Jason G. Cooper, in his mother's memory. (Submitted Photo)
A West Virginia University graduate inspired by his late mother’s passion for nursing is building upon her legacy with a $200,000 scholarship gift to support School of Nursing students from West Virginia.
Jason G. Cooper established the Julia Nell Cooper Memorial Nursing Scholarship in memory of his mother, who worked as a nurse for more than 30 years. The scholarship goes to Mountain State students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing who have demonstrated financial need.
“This scholarship is a beautiful tribute to a mother and nurse who clearly made a lasting impact,” Tara Hulsey, dean and E. Jane Martin Endowed Professor, said. “We are grateful to Jason Cooper for providing this gift to honor his mother’s legacy and to eliminate financial barriers for students who are pursuing a career as a nurse.”
Cooper is a native of Ritchie County where he was raised by his mother on a rural farm. His gift is a tribute to the sacrifices she made for his success, as well as her lifelong commitment to caring for others.
Julia Cooper went back to school at Parkersburg Community College, now WVU Parkersburg, to earn her nursing degree. She spent much of her career at Camden Clark Memorial Hospital, what is known today as Camden Clark Medical Center, where she especially enjoyed working in the emergency room. She later worked for the federal Indian Health Service, caring for Inupiat natives in Barrow, Alaska, and Navajo residents in Gallup, New Mexico. She also served in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps as a reserve officer for more than 10 years, rising to the rank of captain.
She passed away July 29, 2019, at the age of 77.
“I know the financial and other sacrifices she went through to get a nursing degree, and I just want to honor her memory and make it less of a burden for someone else to pursue a nursing degree — in particular, a West Virginia resident,” Cooper said. “She poured her entire professional life, and even part of her retirement, into nursing and home health care and things of that nature. She influenced me to devote my career to health care as well.”
Cooper earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from WVU, where he first dabbled in health care as an undergraduate student working at NIOSH and a graduate researcher working with School of Nursing data. He later continued his education at Duke University, earning a master’s degree in biomedical engineering that reignited his interest in health care.
Cooper has worked for a variety of health care companies, including CVS, Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield. He now serves as chief technology officer for Paradigm, a company that solves catastrophic and complex health care challenges to improve the lives of injured workers and their families.
His work focuses on the intersection of health care, technology and data analytics, and he credits his mother for introducing him to health care as she pursued her college education.
“Everyone is important in the health care ecosystem, but I feel like nurses are the glue that holds everything together,” Cooper said. “I’m hoping to see multiple generations of nurses get a nursing education out of this scholarship, which brings an important resource to the U.S. health care system that’s really needed. I also want to leave them free and clear after their education, so they can worry about finding a great job to improve people’s lives and not worry about paying back their college education.”
Cooper said his mother worked hard to pay for his secondary education at The Linsly School in Wheeling and his undergraduate years at WVU, but he recognizes it was a challenge. He took advantage of graduate assistantships and other financial opportunities to pay for his graduate education.
Cooper and his family — including his wife, Molly, and his son, Alex — currently reside in New Jersey. He also maintains the family farm in Ritchie County, which he has expanded to include adjacent property that once belonged to his grandparents and returns once a month to recharge.
Cooper’s gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.