I enrolled in Central Baptist College in September 1964. As I was getting my class assignments, I kept hearing people talk about the change in science instructors. Harold Cooper had taken a leave of absence to pursue his doctorate at the University of Minnesota.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoyed my general science and biology instructor, Marvin Loyd. That began a long friendship that endures to today. But that is another story.
Still, it was that name that kept popping up all through my time at CBC. Even 56 years ago, I could say that I was just thinking… Bro. Cooper must be a super intelligent science teacher.
I never had the privilege of sitting under his teaching, but the man who received his doctorate in genetics from the University of Minnesota became one of my dearest friends and a man whom I greatly admired. For a time, Dr. Harold E. Cooper was considered one of the top geneticists in America, but he never let his vast knowledge overtake his humility. Dr. Cooper was, by far, one of the most humble men I’ve ever known.
Despite his amazing scientific mind, he never departed from his call to the ministry of the Lord. He was a superb preacher and pastor. Still, he never lost his love for Central Baptist College. It was there where his ministry was so effective. God greatly used him to touch the lives of thousands.
Not only was he a classroom instructor, he served the college as vice-president for academic affairs. In that capacity, he was loved by faculty and students because of his unique demeanor and tender concern for the CBC family. He would later become the president of CBC, and it was during his tenure as president our friendship grew. It was always an honor to have him represent the college in the churches where I was pastor. Of course, I always invited him to preach, usually requesting that he preach about Heaven.
Dr. Cooper was not only a scientist, preacher, pastor, college instructor, CBC vice-president and president, he was a prolific writer. He authored adult VBS lessons for Baptist Publishing House, wrote nine books and was a contributor to the Baptist Trumpet representing CBC. The books that most affected me were his last ones: A Whisper of His Ways and From Here to Heaven.
Long before he wrote From Here to Heaven, he and I were in our dining room in Prescott talking about his perspective of Heaven. It was this: Heaven is all around us. He told me the earth is round so “up” depends on where you are. No matter what hemisphere one may be in, up is one inch from where one stands. Wow! This fellow never thought of that! That is what made Dr. Cooper so special. He combined his scientific knowledge with his biblical knowledge and the lessons were amazing.
Dr. Cooper loved CBC, but he also loved the churches of the BMA of America and BMA of Arkansas. He served as vice-president of the BMA of Arkansas in 1970 and 1971. I think it was then that I noticed something about this trailblazer of the association — he carried himself with dignity and spoke clearly and precisely. He could articulate his thoughts as well as anyone I had heard — then or even today.
In the mid-1980s, the BMA of Arkansas messengers approved the recommendation that a 50,000 sq. ft. educational building be erected on the campus of CBC to replace the deteriorating Old Main. The building has, for the past 35 years, been filled with the traffic of thousands of students in the large classrooms and lab areas. Additionally, the majority of annual sessions of the state association have been hosted by the college in that facility. Fittingly, it was named after a man who was a true trailblazer in every sense and one who loved Central Baptist College. It is the Harold E. Cooper Complex.
Dr. Cooper battled poor health in his last years. He had bypass surgeries twice and continually dealt with leukemia. From time to time he would go into remission, only to have it come back with a vengeance. The one thing that was always evident about Dr. Cooper was that he didn’t complain. He kept on going to the best of his ability and, in doing so, he was an inspiration to all who knew him.
Sadly, his family and the churches of the BMA of Arkansas lost this amazing scientist and preacher on Sept. 8, 1992, when he was only 64 years old. (See Sept. 16, 1992 issue of the Baptist Trumpet, page 1, in the archives at www.baptisttrumpet.com) Those of you who read this article and were privileged to hear him teach, preach, lecture or had him as a friend know that one of these days we will join him and our Savior when we make that journey From Here to Heaven.