Cindy (Neander) Cooper '96. Photo by Todd Hido.
This story was originally published in the Autumn 2008 edition of Saint Mary's magazine
Cindy (Neander) Cooper ’96 is so grateful for the scholarship assistance she received from Saint Mary’s that she has vowed to pay it all back — two times over.
As Vacaville High School’s 1992 valedictorian, Cooper had no trouble getting into college. Tuition, however, was another matter.
“My parents didn’t graduate from college, but education was always stressed in our home,” says Cooper, whose father is a postal worker and mother is a teacher’s aide. “Without the means to attend college, I knew I needed scholarships.”
When a friend told her about Saint Mary’s, she visited Moraga and “absolutely fell in love with the place.”
Cooper accelerated her already intense scholarship search, winning $25,000 in Vacaville community scholarships and obtaining $25,000 in federal and state aid. Then, she received some assistance from an unexpected source.
“What really surprised me was the $30,000 I received from Saint Mary’s alumni scholarships,” she says. “I was so impressed that these alumni donated to a general fund and trusted that the College would give the money to a deserving student.”
Cooper proved worth every penny. An economics major, she graduated as valedictorian and took a job with the Securities and Exchange Commission in San Francisco, where she still works 12 years later.
“I love the SEC’s mission of protecting investors and the integrity of the financial markets,” she says.
Reflecting on her time at Saint Mary’s, Cooper says it not only opened doors in her career, but also was the basis for lifelong friendships. She even met her husband, Kevin, who worked for Sodexo dining services at the College during her senior year.
“It was everything I’d hoped for. Without fraternities or sororities, students form bonds by dorm, by major and by hobbies,” says Cooper, who worked as an RA in De La Salle for two years. “As an only child, I appreciated that camaraderie.”
Since graduating, she has always searched for ways to give back. During her five years on the Alumni Board of Directors, she helped launch Gaelfest as a revitalized homecoming event during basketball season. She also organizes the annual Summer Wine Festival, a fundraiser for student scholarships. In August, more than 200 people gathered at the Soda Center to sample California wines, including Concannon, Brother Timothy Estate Cabernet and others with connections to the College’s illustrious winemaking tradition.
Even with her volunteer efforts, Cooper wanted to do more to acknowledge the alumni generosity that enabled her to attend Saint Mary’s. So she made the promise to pay back all her scholarships from the College, with a goal of giving $60,000.
“It will take me a while since I’m a government employee,” she says with a laugh. “But my husband’s been very supportive, even though he graduated from a college that I won’t mention.”