SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS—From left: Michelle Outcalt; Juel Smith; Kiya Tomlin, Leadership Achievement award winner; Rufus Burnett Jr.; Florence Saint-Jean with Chuck Cooper III. (Photos by Rossano P. Stewart)
The Chuck Cooper Foundation awarded its first scholarships in higher education to honor the legacy of Chuck Cooper, the first African-American drafted into the NBA, who afterward leveraged his graduate work into a career of public service. The five students receiving the scholarships were recognized at a luncheon, Feb. 22, along with Mike and Kiya Tomlin, the recipients of the third annual Career Achievement in Leadership, Diversity and Community Service Award.
As a Duquesne University student athlete, Cooper was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1950. After a six-year NBA career, he went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota in 1961. He began his public service as the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Pittsburgh, and then with Pittsburgh National Bank, the predecessor to PNC Bank. He worked as the bank’s Urban Affairs Officer, spearheading affirmative action programs and community development projects.
“Mike and Kiya Tomlin have done outstanding work in our community and are great stewards of Chuck Cooper’s legacy,” said Sy Holzer, Western Pennsylvania regional president, PNC Bank, the presenting sponsor of the Chuck Cooper luncheon. “Chuck was a talented leader and role model in all aspects in his life. PNC supports the Cooper Foundation’s mission as it awards its first scholarships to deserving graduate level students in the region.”
In addition, PNC provided a $5,000 scholarship which the Cooper Foundation awarded to Rufus Burnett, Jr. for study at the McAnulty Graduate School of Liberal Arts at Duquesne University. Additional scholarship winners for study at Duquesne are:
•Juel Smith, $3,000, School of Education Instructional Technology and Leadership
•Florence St. Jean, $1,000, School of Education
•Michelle Outcalt, $1,000, School of Leadership and Professional Advancement
•Candice Aston, $1,000, PhD in Philosophy
“We are extremely proud to award scholarships to these five highly deserving students,” said Chuck Cooper III, president of the Chuck Cooper Foundation and son of the late professional athlete. “This group exemplifies the type of dedication to academic excellence and community service that my father was so passionate about throughout his life. Helping these students to further their academic careers in order to achieve their professional goals is at the heart of the mission of the Cooper Foundation.”
Additional sponsors include Pittsburgh Steelers, UPMC Health Plan and Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, PC.
PNC’s support for the Chuck Cooper Foundation is the centerpiece of its Black History Month celebration in Pittsburgh. “Diversity is a core value at PNC,” said PNC’s Holzer. “Recognizing national history and heritage month celebrations help to acknowledge the many contributions of the diverse customers and communities where employees work and live.”