Cooper, Evern 19(?)(?)–
Evern Cooper 19(?)(?)–
In 1998 Evern D. Cooper became one of the most powerful African Americans in philanthropy when she was tapped to head the United Parcel Service (UPS) Foundation, the charitable division of the package delivery giant. In taking the position, Cooper, a 29-year veteran of UPS, assumed responsibility for all aspects of UPS’s worldwide philanthropic activities—from meal programs in Laredo, Texas, to homeless shelters in London, England. Thousands of charities, struggling to fill the funding gap arising between private resources and government services, turn to foundations like the one run by UPS. Cooper and her staff annually evaluate a staggering number of requests for support. Under her guidance UPS donated over $40 million in 2001. In addition, following the adage, “It’s better to teach a man to fish than give him a fish,” she has spearheaded initiatives to help charities better manage their resources. Reflecting on her achievements, she told Atlanta, “For me, paving the way has always been a challenge, an obstacle, or an opportunity.” To the benefit of charities worldwide and the people they support, she is succeeding in creating opportunities.
The oldest of four children, Evern D. Cooper was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, in a family “with strong core values of service and giving back to your community,” she recalled to Atlanta Woman. “Early in my life, the principles of ‘each one, teach one’ and ‘helping others in need’ were instilled in me by my mother.” Cooper set out to fulfill those principles by becoming a teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism at Michigan State University and by the early 1970s she was working as a high school English teacher. When she decided to pursue graduate studies at Atlanta’s Emory University, she took on a part-time job at UPS to help pay for tuition and living expenses. It would be a move that changed her life. “Right place at the right time,” she told Atlanta. That was in 1974. Cooper never returned to teaching.
For the next 18 years, Cooper worked in a variety of areas at UPS’s Atlanta headquarters, including stints in strategic planning, delivery information, training, and business development. As she gained more knowledge about the company, she began moving up in the corporate ranks. In 1992 she was promoted to the position of associate director of the UPS Foundation. According to the UPS Community website, “The UPS Foundation has supported organizations devoted to strengthening communities at the grassroots level.…and it continues to develop and champion solutions to social problems.” Key focus areas of the charitable group include hunger, literacy, and volunteerism. In her new role, Cooper was able to return her focus to the principles of charity and service she had learned from her family.
In 1998 Cooper made corporate history on two fronts—she became the first woman and the first African American to become president of the UPS Foundation. She repeated both of those firsts with her dual appointment as vice president of UPS corporate relations. Upon her appointment to head the foundation, UPS chief executive officer Jim Kelly told Philanthropy
At a Glance…
Born in Detroit, ML Education: Michigan State University, BA, English and journalism; Emory University, graduate studies; Harvard School of Business, graduate studies.
Career: English teacher, early 1970s; United Parcel Service (UPS), strategic planning, delivery information, training, and business development, 1974-98, UPS Foundation president, 1998–, UPS Corporate Relations, vice president, 1998–.
Selected memberships: National Urban League Black Executive Exchange Program; Advisory Council of the Coalition of 100 Black Women; board member: Atlanta Partners for Education; Northwest Georgia Girl Scouts Council; Corporate Advisors of United Way of America; National Black Arts Festival.
Selected awards: Named one of eight “Women Making a Mark,” by Atlanta, 2003; “Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Talents Award,” Women Looking Ahead News Magazine, 2000; inductee, YWCA of Greater Atlanta’s Academy of Women Achievers.
Address: Office—UPS Foundation, 55 Glenlake Parkway, NE, Atlanta, GA, 30328.
News Digest, “Since the inception of the UPS Foundation in 1951, we have emphasized our efforts to help remedy socio-economic issues and, just this year, announced two new initiatives that focus on some of the most important issues facing society today—breaking the cycle of illiteracy within families and promoting volunteerism. Evern is clearly the perfect person to take on this charge.” The high-profile position brought with it huge responsibilities. Cooper assumed management of all of the corporation’s philanthropic funding. In 2002 that included some $38 million dollars in gifts, ranging from college scholarships to charity grants and emergency aid relief. She also took on the monumental task of evaluating the success of thousands of literacy, hunger relief, and volunteerism programs.
One of the foundation’s initiatives has been the Region District Grant Program, which bases gifts on the recommendations of UPS employees worldwide. “The nature of our business—serving customers all over the world at the local level—puts UPS in a position to see first-hand some of the critical, social, and economic problems facing our communities. The Region District Grant Program reflects our commitment to delivering help directly where it is needed,” Cooper explained on the UPS Community website. In 2001 the program donated over $3 million dollars to 82 agencies throughout the world, for everything from disaster relief to healthcare. Another initiative is Family and Workplace Literacy, which has donated over $8 million since 1982 and has helped more than 42,000 people. As a former teacher, Cooper is particularly passionate about these two programs.
Consistent with the foundation’s mission, there is a large program dedicated to hunger relief, the Prepared and Perishable Food Rescue Program (PPFRP). It was started in 1989 as a way to intercept the thousands of pounds of food that are thrown away each day by restaurants, supermarkets, and other organizations, and deliver that food to hungry families nationwide. “Hunger is a serious and often forgotten problem in our country,” Cooper said on the UPS Community website. “The food rescue programs are designed so that surplus food ends up on the table of those in need.” The UPS Foundation is also a major supporter of Special Olympics, the United Way, the NAACP, and the National Urban League. In her position as president of the foundation, Cooper orchestrated the UPS Foundation’s response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which included $2 million in cash donations and another $3 million worth of logistical and transportation services.
One high-profile event that the UPS Foundation supported tapped both Cooper’s philanthropic and corporate relations skills. In 1999 UPS helped sponsor the movement of two giant pandas from China to an Atlanta zoo, including a large donation for the animals’ upkeep. Dubbed the Panda Express, the UPS initiative contributed to the future of these endangered animals and garnered positive publicity for UPS.
However, Cooper’s proudest professional moment has nothing to do with pandas. She told Atlanta Woman, “In my 28 years with UPS I have reached different levels of achievement, but my current post allows me to be directly involved with a personal cause of mine: the Volunteer Impact Initiative.” The program was started in 1998 to explore new ways for charities to recruit and retain volunteers. UPS committed over $2 million to the program in its first two years. The money, doled out in grants to five volunteer-driven organizations, was used to overhaul volunteer management, recruitment, and support at several pilot sites. The results were amazing—United Way increased its volunteers from 54 to more than 500; Junior Achievement increased volunteer retention by 50%; and the Points of Light Foundation increased youth volunteering by 43%. Encouraged by the outcome, UPS committed another $6 million in order to extend the program over a four-year period. UPS has also funded an Urban Institute study focusing on volunteerism, which it makes available free of charge to non-profit agencies. The UPS Foundation is one of the first to actively focus on the volunteer aspect of philanthropic activities, and Cooper is proud of the achievement. “Spearheading the Volunteer Impact Initiative has really allowed me to practice what I preach and demonstrate the values I grew up with,” she told Atlanta Woman.
In addition to her many activities on behalf of the UPS Foundation, Cooper has participated in several civic endeavors. In 2000 she joined 11 other prominent American women on a cultural exchange program to Israel sponsored by the American Jewish Committee. Cooper has also served on various boards, including the Girl Scouts Council, the National Black Arts Festival, Zoo Atlanta, and the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at the University of Georgia. Her career and civic achievements have earned her considerable recognition. She was named a “Woman of Vision” by the Atlanta Business League. Atlanta magazine named her one of eight “Women Making a Mark” in April of 2003. She has been featured in Ebony and was profiled on the nationally syndicated radio program, Bloomberg Urban Business Report. Cooper takes this recognition in stride. She told Atlanta Woman, “I see myself as an ordinary woman who through fate and circumstance has arrived at this position in life.” The hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been bettered through her work at the helm of the UPS Foundation might add an “extra” in front of that ordinary.
Atlanta, April 2003, p. 86.
Atlanta Woman, May/June 2003, p. 19.
Ebony, April 2003, p. 12.
“Mapping New Routes To Volunteer Success,” UPS Delivering Success, www.community.ups.com/community/causes/us_relations/mapping.pdf. (June 3, 2003).
“Philanthropy,” UPS Community, www.community.ups.com/community/philanthropy/main.html (June 3, 2003).
“UPS Foundation,” UPS Pressroom, http://pressroom.ups.com/mediakits/socialresponsibility/foundation/0,1387,,00.html (June 3, 2003).
“UPS Foundation Announces New Executive Director,” Philanthropy News Digest, http://fdncenter.org/pnd/archives/19980715/980715.html (June 3, 2003).
“UPS Foundation Community Resources,” Community Crossroads, www.community.ups.com/community/resources/foundation/index.html (June 3, 2003).
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