Cooper To Retire After 32 Years at Tech

Arkansas Tech University has only known three directors of bands during its 102-year history. On Thursday, the third man to hold that title notified the Arkansas Tech Board of Trustees of his plans to retire.  Hal Cooper, associate professor of music and director of bands at Arkansas Tech since 1979, will retire effective Aug. 13, 2011. “It is with mixed feelings that I tell you that I must resign my position as director of bands at Arkansas Tech,” wrote Cooper is his letter of resignation. “Recent health issues on my part and the need for youth in the band position make this the best decision for everyone concerned. “The long career at Tech and being a part of such a strong tradition has been a wonderful experience for me, and the support from our administration, our faculty and our students has been above and beyond any expectation,” continued Cooper. “I look forward to witnessing continued success from a different perspective.” The musical tradition at Arkansas Tech was founded by the first student to ever enroll at the school — Marvin Williamson. He served as director of bands at Arkansas Tech from 1913-50 and continued to serve on the music faculty until 1956. That tradition was carried on and expanded by Gene Witherspoon, who came to Tech as its director of bands in 1950 and remained in that role until he died as the result of a heart attack on Jan. 14, 1979, at the age of 59. Cooper took the reins of the Arkansas Tech Symphonic Band and the Arkansas Tech Marching Band, known far and wide as “Arkansas’ Band of Distinction,” in autumn 1979. He has served as president of the Southwest Division of the College Band Directors National Association, a member of the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association, a charter member and president of the Arkansas Bandmasters Association, member and president of Arkansas Phi Beta Mu and district governor of Kappa Kappa Psi college band service fraternity during his 32 years at Arkansas Tech. Cooper was named Arkansas Bandmaster of the Year in 1988, and he achieved membership in the American Bandmaster Association in 1992. The owner of two degrees from Henderson State University, Cooper was recognized by his alma mater as a distinguished alumnus in 2006. Arkansas Tech University honored Cooper in May 2009 with the creation of the Hal Cooper Band Scholarship. The surprise announcement was made during the band’s annual end-of-year concert to mark the conclusion of Cooper’s 30th year at Arkansas Tech. “I can think of no higher honor than for my name to be attached to the opportunity for someone to be a bandsman at Arkansas Tech,” said Cooper at the time. “I must accept this recognition on behalf of the music faculty and administration at Arkansas Tech, who are committed to the success of our students.”