A Godfather to the Foundation
James W. Cooper made his commitment to the betterment of the New Haven community evident in his lifetime. His memory - and his impact - live on in the operation of his honorary funds.
The James W. Cooper Music Fund was established in 1989 by bequest of James W. Cooper for music in New Haven, to help serious and innovative music organizations which are less popular, with preference for the Neighborhood Music School, the New Haven Chorale, the Starlight Festival of Chamber Music, the Chamber Orchestra of New England or Sprague Hall Chamber Concerts, and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.
The Fund for the New Haven Legal Assistance Association in Memory of James W. Cooper was established in 1989 by members of the law firm of Tyler Cooper & Alcorn in honor of James W. Cooper, who worked for the establishment and advancement of the Legal Assistance Association.
If Day is The Foundation's Father, then James W. Cooper is its Godfather. Like Day, Cooper's enthusiasm, wisdom, and determination inspired many Distribution Committee members who served with him. Day embraced the idea of a New Haven community trust, and, with the participation of colleagues and friends, made it a reality. Cooper, with assistance from Charles J. Parker, Olga V. Shields and Sophie B. Nettleton, the Distribution Committee, and the Trustees transformed The Foundation into a professional organization. His twenty-one years of service coincided with many of the 20th century's most transformative events: the evolving post-war economy, the housing shortage and development programs of the 1950s, sustained migration and the political challenges that accompanied the modern Civil Rights Movement.
James W. Cooper adopted New Haven as his home after attending Yale College and Law School. A gifted singer, he was a Whiffenpoof while at college, and his appreciation for the arts, especially music, made him a zealous advocate for increasing The Foundation's role as an arts funder in the city. He gradually expanded the range of funding priorities to engage the arts more deliberately.
As The Foundation's second longest serving volunteer secretary, James W. Cooper did much to nurture relationships between donors and the institution. While helping to engineer new bequests and manage the Distribution Committee, Cooper built a respected law practice. The New Britain native clerked for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. He returned to New Haven in 1930 to teach at Yale Law School, and later joined the law firm of Watrous, Hewitt, Gumbart & Corbin. By 1945 that firm had become Gumbart, Corbin, Tyler and Cooper and later Tyler, Cooper & Alcorn. James Cooper's devotion to The New Haven Foundation did not prevent him from enjoying other challenges. He consulted with Connecticut neighbors who sought his advice on starting their own community foundations. He was a founding member of the National Committee on Foundations and Trusts for Community Welfare, president of the state bar association, a champion of legal aid, and a director of the social service agency, Community Progress, Inc.
James W. Cooper made his commitment to the betterment of the community evident in his lifetime. His memory - and his impact - live on in the operation of his honorary funds.
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