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Linda Cooper, M.S. '99, had her first experiences in healthcare at a young age. Her mother, who worked as a labor and delivery nurse, would return from the late shift with stories of the previous night. Through eyes heavy with sleep, Cooper would watch as her mother recounted tales of the people she had helped.
These early mornings planted the seeds for what would become a 39-year career providing healthcare to thousands at Advocate BroMenn and Illinois State University Student Health Services (SHS) as a nurse practitioner.
"I considered being a psychologist for a while, but changed at the last minute to nursing," Cooper said. "I have never regretted it. Nursing has always been my true passion."
While she nurtured her passion for nursing, Cooper was also involved with another great passion-athletics. Cooper regularly interacted with student-athletes through her work with the Girl Scouts.
"These student athletes are focused on what they are doing for the community, and I was in awe on how much the young girls loved the college women," Cooper said. "The athletes went out of their way to establish the relationships. As a community member, I wanted to give back to them."
Cooper began assisting the athletes through membership in the Court Club, a group of supporters for women's athletics. Her success in this role expanded to membership in the Redbird Club and liaison to the Athletics Council for the Alumni Association Board.
When Cooper was asked to be president of the Nursing Alumni Board, she combined her passions by holding regular tailgate events for Redbird home games and encouraging MCN alumni and students to attend.
Seeking to help student-athletes who are nursing students realize their own dreams, Cooper established the Linda Meints Cooper Scholarship for Nurse Athletes. The scholarship allows her to honor her passions and give back to student athletes who impact the community.
"It was natural for it to be a dual scholarship," Cooper said. "Being a nursing student is difficult. If the student is a Division I athlete on top of it, they have a difficult task."
Cooper will endow the scholarship through a bequest in her estate. In the meantime she is making regular contributions so that she can begin impacting nursing student athletes-now. "The University gives so much to our community on an organizational level as well as through individual students," Cooper said. "I know a scholarship can make a world of difference."