The annual award honors people who bring strength and vitality to communities across the state through their leadership. More than 200 entrepreneurs, educators and other professionals from across the state have received the award since its inception in 1993.
Cooley has worked at Marshall for nearly 12 years—for the first 11 as director of the Center for African American Students and since January 2014 in his current position.
During his time at Marshall he has been instrumental in designing a number of signature programs for minority and underrepresented students, including the Marshall University Society of Black Scholars, the Health Science and Technology Academy Summer Institute, the Donning of Kente celebration, the annual Diversity Breakfast, the Unity Walk and the Black Alumni Connections Network.
He also is responsible for creating and leading the programs and individualized interventions that led to Marshall being nationally recognized in a 2010 report, “Big Gaps, Small Gaps: Some Colleges and Universities Do Better Than Others in Graduating African-American Students,” published by The Education Trust. The study found Marshall is among the most successful universities in the country at graduating African American students at the same rate as white students.
In his current role, Cooley has made it a priority to work with the international community at Marshall. He has remade the former Office of Multicultural Affairs into a dynamic Office of Intercultural Affairs, with the vision of better preparing all Marshall students to live and work in a global community. As part of his goals for that office, he is developing immersion programs to help the university’s international student body become an integral part of the Marshall community, and, in turn, is working to help American students learn and grow through interaction with their international classmates.
“The role of a university is to help students learn skills and knowledge in their area of study, and to prepare people to live life in an inclusive society,” he says. “When our students graduate … there is a strong likelihood they will be working in settings and businesses with people from all over the world.”
Interim President Gary G. White said, “Maurice is one of the finest individuals I have ever had the good fortune to know. He has made, and continues to make, a very real difference on our campus every single day. I congratulate him for this award. It’s very well deserved.”
Before joining Marshall, Cooley worked in social services for 25 years as a clinician, psychotherapist and program director with the Prestera Center. He also served as a divorce custody mediator with the local family law court.
A Lewisburg native, Cooley has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in counseling, both from Marshall. He served in the U.S. Army for three years. He and his wife, Deborah, who also is a Marshall graduate, have two children, McKenzie and Luke. McKenzie graduated from Marshall in 2014 and recently completed her first year of law school. Luke is a sophomore at Marshall.
Photo: Maurice Cooley (right) receives his “Who’s Who in West Virginia Business” award from guest presenter Sen. Joe Manchin III. Photo courtesy of The State Journal.