A portrait of Cooper

Dr. Daniel William Cooper

September 2, 1830 - December 11, 1920


There is abundant evidence that Daniel William Cooper was the "balance wheel" of the group that launched Sigma Chi.

He was the oldest one of the Seven Founders. Born in Wayne Township, Knox County, Ohio, on September 2, 1830, he was in his 25th year on June 28, 1855, when The White Cross appeared at Oxford.

Cooper's parents were among the early settlers of Ohio, having come from New Jersey. He started in the district schools of Knox County and then went to Frederickstown, a few miles from his home. After completing his studies at Frederickstown he taught in the district schools for several terms and then went to a preparatory academy at Haysville, Ohio, before entering Miami University. He started at Miami in the fall of 1854 and became a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon in the same class with Bell, Caldwell, Jordan, and Runkle. He and Bell joined the Eccritean Literary Society but were in complete accord with the other four Founders who disagreed with the "loyal six" of Delta Kappa Epsilon.

His fellow-Founders were somewhat impressed by his age and always called him "Old Dan." The name was a mark of their confidence and affection. He seems to have been mature beyond his years, had a studious, thoughtful disposition and was studying for the ministry. Runkle once said of him that as for the moral and spiritual foundations upon which the Fraternity was based, the quiet influence of Cooper was equal to that of all his associates together. Runkle further said:

"The little band was, if possible, overstocked with physical courage, nervous energy, and overleaping ambition to place The White Cross high in the heavens. Cooper was quiet, calm, earnest, true, conscientious, and faithful. He was as the shadow of St. Peter passing by. We all sought him in his modest quarters, and no one came away without better resolutions and stronger hopes. Different from every one of us, he walked among us honored, loved, looked-up-to with perfect confidence."

At the first election of officers in Alpha Chapter, Daniel William Cooper was the spontaneous choice as the first presiding officer, or Grand Archon, as the office was known in the original Constitution and Ritual. He was the influential head of the Chapter and most of the time during the two years until his graduation was the presiding officer, or as known in the present day, the Consul.

The sole remaining badge of the original seven bearing the letters Sigma Phi was Cooper's and now is in the Fraternity's archives and brought out of the Headquarters museum only when a new Grand Consul is installed. This badge is pinned on the new Grand Consul by his predecessor at the installation ceremonies, and is then returned to the museum. The new officer wears a replica of the Cooper badge.

Upon graduating from Miami, Cooper entered the Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, and graduated in 1859. The year 1859 was a very significant one in his life. He was married on October 6 to Miss Jane Skinner of Pittsburgh, and was also ordained to the Presbyterian Ministry during that year. His first pastorate was at Olivesboro, Ohio, where he served for nearly seven years. Next, he was in charge of the Presbyterian church at Ottawa, Ohio, from 1865 to 1872. Then at West Point, Indiana, from 1872 to 1878. During the next four years he was in special missionary service of his church.

In 1882 Dr. Cooper (as he had become) started on his conspicuously successful pastorate at the First Presbyterian Church in McComb, Ohio where he served until 1891. In the early '90s ill health forced him to retire from his ministerial duties and he lived for some years in the South. He gave himself to literary pursuits and a well-earned rest. Returning to Ohio from the South in the late '90s he lived at McComb, Ohio, until 1915, when he moved to Marion, Ohio, where he spent the rest of his life with his son, James G. Cooper, Ohio Wesleyan '02.

To the very last, the oldest of the Founders retained his calm, collected thoughtful mien. People from all walks of life came to him for advice and encouragement. They always left his presence feeling better for having talked with him. From his ripe experiences he was able to answer most of their questions and to point out the right paths for them to follow. His influence and guidance has significantly carried over today into Sigma Chi which everlastingly remembers Founder Cooper for his qualtity of self control.

On December 11, 1920, Cooper, the last surviving Founder, died in Marion. He was in his 91st year and had lived for 65 years after Sigma Chi was begun. He survived William Lewis Lockwood, the first of the Founders to die, by more than half a century--53 years to be exact.

In 1924 a Founders' Memorial Monument was dedicated at his grave in Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

On the death of James G. Cooper in 1945 the Fraternity came into possession of much of the Founder's furniture, his library, and many other memorabilia which have been placed on display in the Fraternity's Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois.

Born: September 2, 1830 A.B. , Miami University: 1857 student, Western Theological Seminary: 1857-59 licensed by Richland Presbytery: 1858 ordained: 1859 pastor, Presbyterian churches in Ohio and Indiana: 1859-91 dele-g ate, Presbyterian General Assembly: 1872, 1885 Died: December 11, 1920 Buried: Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh .


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