Signe Cooper Celebrates 90th Birthday

Professor emeriti Signe Cooper

Professor emerita Signe Cooper, a significant donor to the Power of Nursing campaign, believes a new nursing building will provide opportunities for students to learn skills needed to continue to make significant contributions to nursing.

Friends, colleagues, alumni and Dean Kathryn May joined Signe Skott Cooper for her 90th birthday celebration Friday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing. Faculty and staff joined the group for a cake to celebrate Cooper’s contributions to the School.

Cooper (’43 ZC NUR, ’48 BS NUR) spent World War II in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, serving in China and the South Pacific. She became head nurse of the obstetric unit at University Hospitals and, in 1955, was offered a joint appointment with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension and School of Nursing. During those years, she helped develop the Department of Nursing into a nationally and internationally recognized department of continuing education. She became an associate professor of nursing in 1957 and  full professor in 1962 and retired as a professor emerita in 1983.

Named a “Living Legend” by the American Academy of Nursing, Cooper and her sister Hilda Skott have made the largest individual gift to the Power of Nursing campaign to build a new home for the School of Nursing. In 2000, Cooper made a gift of her sister’s estate to name the Signe Skott Cooper and Hilda Skott Historical Suite in the new building.

“The School of Nursing has been really important in my life, not only because I’m a graduate of the School but because I taught there for many years,” Cooper said. “The alumni of the School have made important contributions to nursing in the state as well as elsewhere. It’s important to have a good teaching facility that helps students learn.”

During the birthday celebration, May shared architectural information about the new building, including a planned wall depicting the School’s history. Cooper was not the oldest guest at her party: Mary Beckman (’67 MS NUR) and Louise Rusch (’33 ZC NUR, ‘36 BS NUR), who are both in their 90s, also joined the celebration.