Mountain Empire Community College Foundation Announces Captain Russell E. Cooper Memorial Endowed Buccaneer Scholarship

Capt Russell

The Captain Russell E. Cooper Buccaneer Endowed Scholarship will benefit students from Wise County in any discipline. Students may be recent graduates or adults returning to college. “I believe Russell had great potential and didn’t get the opportunity to fulfill it.“ said Kyle Cooper. “Hopefully, this scholarship will help someone achieve theirs.” 

Russell was born on December 2, 1936, in Appalachia, Virginia. He was the third of eight children born to Floyd E. Cooper and Helen A. Cooper. In 1941 he and his family moved to Big Stone Gap, Virginia in the summer of 1941 and resided at 315 E. Third Street North near the lower entrance to Bullitt Park.

He began first grade at Big Stone Gap Elementary School in 1943 and graduated from Big Stone Gap High School in 1955. As indicated in the 1955 School Bell, Russell participated in many school activities and enjoyed interacting with his classmates while serving as president of his class, president of the key club and captain of the basketball team. He was awarded a Dupont academic scholarship to attend the University of Virginia.

Russell attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville from 1955 to 1959 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce degree on June 15, 1959. While at UVA, he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and the Corp of Cadets. He was also a member of the drill team (Monroe Rifles) and the honorary society of the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (Jefferson Sabers). His senior year he received the U.S. Army’s Superior Cadet Ribbon. On the same day he graduated from the University of Virginia, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army.

Cooper began his Army career at Fort Sill, Oklahoma as a member of the 44th Army Artillery.  He completed artillery and missile training while there and was then assigned to a missile site in the Los Angeles area. He next attended Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga. and completed his training in May of 1960.

He began training to be an Army pilot at Fort Rucker as his next assignment and after completing several flight schools (1960-1962) he was assigned to fly with the U. S. Army Parachute Team (The Golden Knights) and spent some time touring the country with them before being assigned to the 38th Artillery Brigade in Korea. Russell was promoted to the rank of Captain and was serving as an Adjutant to the Commanding General at the time of his death.

The Buccaneer Scholarship Fund was established by the Big Stone Gap Buccaneer Alumni Group more than a decade ago to honor notable Buccaneer alumni and teachers at Big Stone Gap High School. The fund, which started with one scholarship, has now grown to more than 16 individual scholarship and more than $1M in endowed funds.

For more information on establishing a scholarship at MECC, please visit the MECC Foundation website at or call Dr. Amy Greear, Executive Director, at 276-523-7480.

Located in Big Stone Gap, MECC is celebrating its 50th year serving students in Wise, Lee, Scott, and Dickenson Counties and the city of Norton. MECC serves over 1,300 full-time students and over 3,000 part-time or non-credit students in various academic and career-technical programs. Learn more about MECC’s program offerings at

For more information on this scholarship, please contact the MECC Office of Public Relations at 276-523-2400.