Though he became increasingly controversial during his tenure as college president, Thomas Cooper was very popular with his students. Most of them came to his defense in the years of 1831-33, when Cooper was frequently challenged by the state legislature. Though many students disagreed with Cooper's philosophies, they liked the man personally.
Reportedly, Cooper was remarkable in appearance, with an exceptionally large head, and standing less than five feet in height. J. Marion Sims, a student who became a famous physician, described Cooper: "He was a perfect taper from the side of his head down to his feet; he looked like a wedge with a head on it." He was well known in town for his twinkling eyes and jolly face.
His rather odd appearance earned him the nickname of "Old Coot." The students believed that Cooper looked like a terrapin, and the regional name of the terrapin was "cooter." Sims felt that the "name suited him exactly." Though a current University President might be offended by the moniker, Cooper enjoyed the name and his rapport with his students.
Daniel Walker Hollis. South Carolina College, Vol. I. Columbia, S.C.: University
of South Carolina P., 1951.
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Last updated October 22, 1999
Photo courtesy University of South Carolina Archives
This page created by Laura Haverkamp