When Scott Cooper graduated from East Carolina University in 1990, he knew he had earned much more than a diploma. The graduate with a degree in industrial technology realized he had a head start on other jobseekers.
"The construction management program [at ECU] gave me a solid base to succeed in the construction industry by preparing me to understand my customers' needs," Cooper said. "It was beneficial that everything in our program was hands on. We also were supported by a staff that knew everyone personally and made us feel like our family away at school," he said.
The Department of Construction Management is part of the College of Technology and Computer Science at East Carolina. Since its inception in 1985, the program has seen steady growth and is now the largest in the southeast. Students who enroll at East Carolina join a family of construction professionals with 150 years of combined construction and design experience, who focus on teaching real-world solutions to real-world construction challenges. In fall 2006, the department launched an online master's degree program.
Cooper began his career in process engineering at Collins and Aikman in Farmville, North Carolina. From there, he joined Caterpillar Inc. as a production manager in Clayton, North Carolina, and rose steadily through the company's ranks. Cooper is now marketing manager for the Caterpillar's Telehandler Alliance Group. Grateful for the opportunities East Carolina gave him, Cooper wanted to give back to his alma mater. His early efforts yielded donations of several pieces of Caterpillar equipment for faculty and students to use in the construction management program, including a mini-hydraulic excavator and skid steer loader, valued at more than $200,000.
"What really makes the program valuable to Caterpillar and our dealers is the direct connection it has with our industry," said Cooper. "By helping the construction management graduates, we help our future employees and customers."
During the next several years, Cooper continued to advocate for the university, convincing Caterpillar executives to visit East Carolina to see firsthand the value of a more extensive partnership. In 2006, the Caterpillar Foundation pledged $250,000 to the Caterpillar Excellence Fund to support the construction assembly high bay laboratory, a highly visible and practical work space that adds further value to the students' education in the areas of building, mechanical systems, quality control, and safety. The gift also will help to facilitate research and development activities related to industry equipment use and application. Gregory Poole Equipment Company, a Caterpillar dealer based in Raleigh, North Carolina, matched the pledge with $250,000 for construction management faculty professional development, research, and the latest technology.
"We feel that our investment in the faculty will benefit students and the construction industry for years to come," said Richard Donnelly, executive vice president for Gregory Poole. "ECU construction management students go on to become supervisors and managers in the companies that we support through our products and services."
"Alumni like Scott Cooper make the university what it is and are its future," said Doug Kruger, chairman of East Carolina's Department of Construction Management and longtime friend of Cooper. "Scott serves as a model of what can be accomplished when alumni want to support their alma mater."