Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Ms. Nancy’s Heart for Service

As Mrs. Nancy prepares to retire, The Paladin looks back to her roots to discover how her Furman legacy of serving others began.
Evi-Jane Garnett

Soon-to-be retired Nancy Cooper, also known as “Ms. Nancy,” is a central figure on Furman’s campus.

When people ask what she loves most in life, she always responds, “I love people. That’s just who I am!” This love for people is reflected in her presence on campus. Whether students are interested in volunteer opportunities, seeking help in their personal lives or needing a mentor figure, Ms. Nancy is the go-to person on campus, always taking the time to connect with people individually.

Many students see Ms. Nancy sitting in her office and attending Heller events, but have never heard the story of how she came to become the volunteer coordinator for Heller Service Corps.

In the 1980s, Ms. Nancy lived just outside Furman’s back gate with two children and was married to a successful businessman. Before coming to Furman, she worked as the volunteer coordinator at schools, served her church and was the Community Club President. But soon after she became a mother, her life took a turn.

Unexpectedly, Mr. Cooper was diagnosed with a rare stomach disease, meaning Ms. Nancy needed to find work to sustain their family. He was told he only had three months to live.

In response, Ms. Nancy sought job opportunities at Furman University. When she interviewed in the Business and Economics Department, they asked if she had any experience with computers.

“Well, I didn’t lie, but that doesn’t mean I told the whole truth! I am so grateful to Brenda Chandler because when they decided to hire me, she taught me everything I needed to know,” Ms. Nancy said.

Once this temporary position ended, Ms. Nancy applied to work in Furman athletics. “I was not athletic at all, but I was just grateful for the job at the time,” she said.

Following Ms. Nancy’s temporary jobs at Furman, the Coopers sought out a new source income, Ms. Nancy prayed for a job that would give her family the support they needed to pay for Mr. Cooper’s treatment. She soon found out that the Volunteer Coordinator position had opened up abruptly. In this role, students’ passion for service has kept her motivated all these years.

“I was so grateful for the opportunity (to work in a place) where Furman students went out into the Greenville community and did amazing things,” Ms. Nancy said. “Furman students never say no to anything. They just respond, ‘Whatever we can do.’ I love Furman students because they love a challenge. They don’t see walls. If there is a wall, they go over, around, or through it.”

During her early years working at Furman, her husband was also involved in service despite his illness.

“The doctors told us he would live 3 months, and he lived on for 27 more years,” Ms. Nancy said.

He became a chef and frequently cooked for Furman students, especially the fraternities and sororities. The Coopers’ dedication to service and love for the Furman and Greenville community was reflected through their consistent acts of kindness.

Furman alumna Lori Housworth ‘91 remembers the Coopers fondly from her time at Furman.

“The opportunity to serve the community during my years at Furman changed my life and hugely contributed to the career choices I’m still living out today,” Housworth said. “I can’t tell you the feelings that came flooding back when I returned to Furman to drop off my freshman daughter and saw Ms. Nancy, still at the student center 30 years later, loving people around her and making them smile.”

Her kindness, generosity, and compassion know no bounds, and it is an immense blessing to learn from her. May we all love a little more like Ms. Nancy.

— Former Heller Service Corps Student Director Addison Smith '22

Ms. Nancy says the most meaningful aspect of her work is the interactions she gets to experience with kind, servant-hearted students.

“I have had students donate kidneys to kids they used to volunteer with, empower middle school girls through volunteer opportunities they started and people asking their parents to spend their Christmas money on children they volunteer with to buy essentials for their home. I am truly so blessed,” she said.

“I’m a better student, leader, and person because of Ms. Nancy,” Addison Smith ‘22 said, who served as Student Director of Heller Service Corps during his time at Furman. “I look back on my time at Furman with great fondness largely because of the positive impact Ms. Nancy had on my experience. Her kindness, generosity, and compassion know no bounds, and it is an immense blessing to learn from her. May we all love a little more like Ms. Nancy.”

She gets this boundless compassion from her family.

“My parents were extremely blessed people who were always helping people,” Ms. Nancy said. “I remember being in school and my mother constantly stressed, ‘When you do something for someone, you can’t tell someone, or it doesn’t count.’”

For Trace Lackey ‘25, incoming Student Director at Heller, Ms. Nancy being such a strong leader has greatly impacted his personal and professional life.

“I came to the Heller office later in my freshman year to find an outlet for service. When I met Ms. Nancy, she was the first faculty member at Furman where I was able to truly discuss what I was passionate about for an entire hour,” Lackey said. “Over the years, she has shown me how to utilize my positivity to cultivate worthwhile friendships and how to make friends with strangers instantly with the goal of serving the Furman and Greenville community.”

As she prepares to retire, Ms. Nancy says she’ll miss the excitement of the job. “I pinch myself on a daily basis to think this is really real. Every day in the Heller office is a different day. There are never two days that are just alike. I have so much love for Furman in my heart and it has been the most amazing experience,” she said.

Though students will miss Ms. Nancy, her legacy will live on not only through her endowed Valentine’s Day Dance for Exceptional Adults but also through her character.

She lives by Max and Trudy Heller’s saying, “There’s a hand up, never a handout.” Ms. Nancy, a woman of strong faith with a strong love for people, will always be a member of the Furman community.

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About the Contributor
Evi-Jane Garnett
Evi-Jane Garnett, Social Media and Photography Director
Evi-Jane Garnett is a sophomore from Winter Park, Florida studying French and Communication Studies. Evi-Jane has a passion for photography that began in high school when she was an avid photographer for the school’s yearbook. She served as the yearbook Photography Editor during her senior year of high school. At Furman, she has taken various photography courses and contributed to The Paladin. Evi-Jane is the current Social Media Director and Photo Editor of The Paladin and is excited to continue to share her love of photography.
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