Philip and Carol Cooper

Trust Increases Impact of Couple’s “Modest” Gift

Philip Cooper discovered early in his medical education that he enjoyed solving mysteries. The son of a family doctor and a homemaker, Cooper grew up in Los Angeles and earned a medical degree from UCLA. He was drawn to pathology, which involved long hours of peering through a microscope to analyze tissue samples. He developed expertise in skin diseases.

Cooper’s curiosity and a strong desire to teach led to a 30-year career—18 of them at the University of Virginia School of Medicine—in pathology and dermatology. In addition to teaching, performing laboratory work and conducting research, Cooper served as editor in chief of the Journal of Cutaneous Pathology, a leading journal in the field. Still, the professor emeritus said, he liked working with pathology residents above all. “They were all different; many were outstanding,” he said. “To me, the residents were the best part of the job.”

A history enthusiast since his undergraduate years, Cooper learned about UVA’sMiller Center of Public Affairs while on the faculty of the School of Medicine, but did not attend the center’s programs until after his retirement and the death of his first wife in 2002. He then began going to Miller Center forums on a regular basis and became acquainted with another attendee, Carol Burkhardt, a teacher of history and geography. They married in 2006.

A year later, inspired by the Miller Center’s work, the Coopers established the Philip H. Cooper and Carol B. Cooper Charitable Remainder Unitrust, a two-life, irrevocable trust to benefit both the Miller Center of Public Affairs and the Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra where Philip Cooper serves on the board of directors.

He said the remainder trust struck him as a good option for people “who hopefully have a good number of years left to live and who want their modest amount to have a greater impact.”

In addition to the trust, the Coopers also have funded a GAGE (Governing America in a Global Era) fellowship at the Miller Center. This competitive program assists individuals completing their dissertations on American politics, foreign policy or world politics, or on the impact of global affairs on the United States. The program currently provides nine $20,000 grants to support one year of research and writing. Along with administering the fellowship grants, the Miller Center assists the fellows in choosing senior scholars from their fields to serve as mentors.

“The Coopers’ involvement with the GAGE program goes beyond simply their financial support,” said Brian Balogh, founder and chair of the GAGE fellowship program. “They have helped us make the GAGE fellowship into the most prestigious national fellowship in its field.”

While neither of the Coopers comes from a philanthropic background, both wanted to give something back. “Our society is built on people participating, both with their work and their finances,” Carol Cooper said. “We just feel that it’s part of the duty of an American citizen. If you can give, you do.”