Fulfilling school founder’s vision via innovation


The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art celebrated an outstanding year, achieving two major milestones in the college’s rich history. The ribbon cutting at 41 Cooper Square — the college’s sustainable academic laboratory building, on the east side of Third Ave. between Sixth and Seventh Sts. — and the conclusion of Cooper Union’s yearlong 150th anniversary celebration symbolize the beginning of a new era.

At the same time, Cooper Union continues to honor the bold vision of its founder, Peter Cooper, and his remarkable legacy of providing a peerless, full-tuition scholarship education to every admitted student. A century and a half later, The Cooper Union is ranked among the finest American colleges and remains a private institution with a public mission: To prepare gifted students to make enlightened contributions to the cultural and scientific life of our great urban centers.

The rigor of The Cooper Union’s academic programs has made the college one of the nation’s top-ranked institutions of higher education. From being ranked “Best Baccalaureate College” (north) by U.S. News and World Report and third in the nation among undergraduate engineering colleges by U.S. News and World Report — to being rated among the best design schools for creative talent by Business Week — Cooper Union provides its bright and talented students with an unparalleled education.

With roughly 1,000 students, The Cooper Union wins a vastly disproportionate share of the nation’s most prestigious awards, including 31 Fulbright Scholarships since 2001 and 11 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships since 2004. Its alumni continue to excel in their fields and win prestigious awards: In recent years, 12 Rome Prizes, 21 Guggenheim Fellowships, three MacArthur Fellowships, one Nobel Prize in physics and nine Chrysler Design Awards.

Innovation is the cornerstone of Cooper Union’s mission as well as the linchpin of The Cooper Union’s strategic plan to assure academic excellence and its financial security. The construction of 41 Cooper Square and the renovation of the historic Foundation Building, which houses the Great Hall, ushers in the college’s commitment to meeting the challenges and promises of the 21st century. With its state-of-the-art, reconfigurable classrooms, laboratories, studios and public spaces, 41 Cooper Square, and its unique green features, captured the attention of architecture critics and the public on a global scale. The architecture critic of The New York Times referred to it as “a bold architectural statement of genuine civic value.” Built with stringent sustainability goals, 41 Cooper Square is likely to achieve a LEED platinum rating; it will be the first LEED-certified academic laboratory building in New York City.

In addition to believing that an “education of the first rank” should be “as free as free as air and water,” Peter Cooper wanted to create a venue that would encourage public engagement. Since 1859, the college’s Great Hall has served as a forum to present societal issues and political discourse to the people of New York, making The Cooper Union an innovative force for change. As part of the 150th anniversary celebration, Cooper Union introduced “Great Evenings in The Great Hall,” an eight-part series featuring notable actors, writers and public figures who re-created pioneering Great Hall speeches and events that captured the nation’s attention. Those highlighted included Frederick Douglass, Victoria Woodhull, Samuel Gompers and Abraham Lincoln’s “Right Makes Might” speech.

It has been an exciting year at Cooper Union marked by transformation and dramatic changes. As the next 150 years unfold, Cooper Union reaffirms its commitment to academic excellence and the full-tuition scholarships.