Passing on a Love for Learning
Growing up in Charlotte, Anne Schout never questioned whether she would go to college. Her parents spoke often about their own college days and the doors to success opened by higher education. Learning, they told her, is a gift that no one can take from you.
When Schout – who indeed went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry – decided to honor her father’s memory by supporting education, she turned without hesitation to his alma mater, NC State University.
“I love that State gave my father the foundation to excel in his chosen profession and is still doing that for students today, 80 years later,” she said. “My dad was so proud of graduating from NC State. It was so important to him.”
A few months ago, the New Bern resident – along with her husband, Jim, an NC State alumnus in mechanical engineering – made the commitment to establish the P.H. Cooper Distinguished Professorship in NC State’s College of Education. Named for Schout’s father and with a nod to her own area of expertise, the position will focus on furthering outstanding science, technology, engineering and math education and preparing the next generation of North Carolina educators.
Schout is also establishing the P.H. Cooper Faculty Award Endowment to support professional development and other needs of STEM-focused faculty in the college. In 2010, she started an endowed scholarship in the College of Education, also in her father’s name and with a similar STEM focus.
Although Schout graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she grew up hearing stories about NC State and following its athletics programs alongside her father, who played baseball at the school and earned a teaching degree in 1936.
His educational road was not easy. Cooper arrived in Raleigh in the fall of 1931. After two years, in the midst of the Great Depression, he dropped out temporarily to earn money before returning to campus to complete his degree.
Within his family, Cooper became the only member of his generation to finish college. His grandfathers, both farmers, had died when their children were young. Schout’s father viewed education as a “leg up” from his family’s hardships to a better future.
“Everyone deserves a chance to make the most of themselves,” Schout said of her motivation in establishing a scholarship.
Following graduation, Schout’s father worked in education briefly before becoming a very successful businessman.
“After my dad died, I realized how much he used his degree every day,” she said. “He only taught for a year or so at the high school level and then went on to do very well in sales. But he used his teaching skills to teach other salesmen. He really used so many of the things that he learned at NC State, and it was amazing when I could reflect and see how it all came together.”
After creating the scholarship, Schout – who also started a scholarship at her mother Martha’s alma mater, Queens University – became more engaged with NC State’s College of Education. She quickly became a fan and advocate, and now serves on the college’s advisory board.
The college, she said, produces world-class educators armed with the tools to help their students succeed and works at the cutting edge of educational leadership, even with fewer resources and less public recognition than other institutions.
“It’s very exciting and blows my mind, really, what they’re doing,” Schout said. “It has opened both my eyes and my heart. The College of Education really is a hidden gem at NC State. The more you learn about what they’re doing, the more you’re amazed and enthralled about the possibilities.”
Schout views endowing a professorship as a way to make an even greater difference for education – impacting many college students, their future students and research. Dynamic professors enable the college to transform a field that is critical to ensuring U.S. leadership in the world, she said.
She encourages alumni and friends to help the College of Education support the best and brightest minds, financially and by the gift of their time and expertise.
“Every great scientist and engineer started in a K-12 classroom. Education is the most critical thing you can support,” Schout said. “Public funding has been cut for higher education these past few years. Without philanthropy, without help from alumni and others who are interested in helping, this college is not going to thrive and prosper. If we want our children, and our children’s children, to succeed, it’s imperative that we support the College of Education.”
With her gifts, she passes on the love of learning shared by her parents.
“I think my father would be honored, humbled and very proud of my involvement with NC State,” Schout said.