About Cooper Union
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art was founded in 1859 by industrialist, inventor and philanthropist Peter Cooper in New York City. With no formal education of his own, Cooper aspired to create an institution that would provide free instruction to ambitious young men and women: I formed a very resolute determination that if I could ever get the means, I would build an institution and throw its doors open at night so that the boys and girls of this city, who had no better opportunity than I had to enjoy means of information, would be enabled to improve and better their condition, fitting them for all the various and useful purposes of life.
Cooper Union has never discriminated by race, gender, class or creed. When it was founded, Cooper Union consisted of the Free Night School of Science and Art and a school of design for women. It offered a free reading library and lectures to the general public. Today, the Cooper Union awards full-tuition scholarships in internationally recognized baccalaureate programs in Art, Architecture and Engineering.
Over the course of its one hundred and fifty year history, The Cooper Union has evolved into an institution of higher education characterized by an environment of freedom, cooperation, creativity and equality. It offers internationally recognized baccalaureate programs in Architecture, Art and Engineering. The excellence of its programs is founded on the unique mission of The Cooper Union, which is to admit students solely on basis of merit and to award full-tuition scholarships.
Because the financial burden of tuition, under which so many students now labor, has been removed, The Cooper Union remains a place where talented students are free to rise above social distinction. They explore their fullest potential in the company of intellectual equals. They innovate and create without the weight of tuition debt or the financial expectations of their families. They support and engage each other in a free exchange of ideas.
Numerous graduates have become Fulbright Scholars, National Science Foundation fellowship recipients, and have been awarded prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships, Rome Prizes, Macarthur Fellowships, and other design awards for their work. Notable alumni include Nobel Physicist Russell A. Hulse, medical instrument and detection developer Stanley Lapidus, designer Milton Glaser, sculptor Eva Hesse, writer-director Patti Jenkins, architects Daniel Libeskind and Shigeru Ban among others. Alumni also make distinguished contributions in the fields of medicine, science, law, business, education and public service.
In addition to fostering a culture of free education and academic excellence, Cooper Union has been a vital cultural and political institution in New York City. Its historic Great Hall welcomed Abraham Lincoln in 1860 with his “Right Makes Might Speech,” propelling him toward the White House, and Cooper Union has since been a platform for future presidents and presidential candidates. Cooper Union provided a key forum for the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements as well as the struggle for Native American rights. Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Red Cloud have spoken there. On the literary front, the Great Hall has featured distinguished writers ranging from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Norman Mailer to Salman Rushdie. In recent years, social and environmental activists Wangari Maathai, Frances Moore Lappe and Vandana Shiva have also graced the stage.
Cooper Union remains committed to Peter Cooper’s sense of social responsibility and the importance of giving back to community.
It is now my fervent hope that the youth of my native city and country will constantly throng these halls, with eager efforts to gain that kind of useful knowledge which is needed to make them wise, good, and useful to themselves and to their country.
November 2, 1859