|Unfortunately, I came along to DEA in the early 1990s and did not have the opportunity to be Bill Coopers student â€“ as many of my friends had. However, right from the start we became friends â€“ which was not a difficult thing to do with this always gracious and very accommodating man. So I have had the good fortune to have known him for about (only) 20 years of his 97 but it seems like a lifetime.
Our relationship grew quickly when I found out that he was a very strong proponent of any and all efforts to apply DEA to real-world problems as often as possible. What he meant by this was to solve problems for real managers and institutions both in the private and public sectors. He was a firm believer that DEA (and actually many other technologies he pioneered) could provide significant benefits to operating managers and DEA should be a standard tool in the consultants’ tool kit. In short, we were both on the same page and enjoyed the interaction on this subject. Bill sort of adopted me into DEA and was a father figure to me in academia.
Obviously, this man was an “outlier” in a number of ways, let me just mention two. First, in the scientific world his accomplishments are truly remarkable â€“ but I leave the history part to others. After all, he was in his sixties when DEA was invented with Abe Charnes and then he supervised a number of Doctoral students starting with Ed Rhodes that resulted in a distinguished group of academics. The foundation was laid down and the former students took DEA and developed a significant branch of Management Science (which many say he was the father of) approaches. The DEA literature now consists of perhaps as many as 7-8,000 papers (nobody knows now how many) a real tribute to the versatility of the science. His intellectual leadership in academia is unquestioned and he had received many awards and distinctions but also should have received the Nobel Prize for all his accomplishments.
Second, Bill was a gentle man as well as a gentleman. He treated everyone with respect and was able to accept all the accolades coming his way without ever getting arrogant or displaying the too often evident self-centred and intolerant attitude many much accomplished people show. And he enjoyed the absolute support and love of everyone he knew. He really showed to everybody how friendly and happy he always was. We all were lucky over the past 25 years to have known a man who was pre-eminent in so many ways in his own time. Bill’s influenced us while with us, his legacy continues, and will continue for a long time to come.
The story about him offering his own office to a visiting professor (although there were other available rooms) is an example of selflessness not many could cite even with others much less accomplished than Bill. He was always ready to help, he would gladly accept an invitation from a young researcher to co-author a paper, have them visit, correspond, and he was happy to mentor and nurture the individual. He was an icon and loved by everyone. His former students idolized him and would go to any lengths to do whatever Bill asked â€“ but when he did this it was with an apology for disturbing them.
There are some very special people put on this earth and Bill Cooper was among the very best of those. In my life, I have known only three such people from very different backgrounds. The first one was a professional soldier whom I met in the early 1980s through a common hobby. The second was a Christian Brother whom I met about the same time. And the third was Bill. All three were selfless, extraordinarily smart, gentle and had a heart of gold. And all are, I am sure, assisting the Almighty with his good works.
I miss Bill very much!
Joseph C. Paradi, Canada