Ken Cooper, OE 1942–1950: “truly an Elizabethan for life”

Ken Cooper, OE 1942–1950: “truly an Elizabethan for life”

Headmaster Neil Enright has paid tribute to Old Elizabethan and former Vice-Chairman of Governors Ken Cooper, who served QE over several decades in senior roles. Ken died earlier this month, a few days after his 92nd birthday.

“What an incredible servant of the School community! He distinguished himself first as a pupil, becoming School Captain in 1949, and subsequently in an illustrious professional career. We all have reason to be grateful that he then gave loyal service to our School throughout his long retirement, when he was variously president of the OE Association, a foundation trustee and a Vice-Chair of Governors at a period of rapid development and considerable change at QE.”

“There are few who have made such a broad and sustained contribution to Queen Elizabeth’s School,” said Mr Enright.

Ken arrived at QE in the depths of World War II and quickly made his mark. Excelling in his studies, Ken was equally successful as captain of the First XV. He starred in School plays and the Elizabethan Union owes its identity to him: Ken re-branded the debating society of his day to give it the name by which it is still known.

His Headmaster, the redoubtable Ernest Jenkins, was typically shrewd in his judgment of Ken in his School record card, yet also uncharacteristically fulsome in his praise: “An outstanding fellow…A fine School Captain, class forward, good actor and debater…who may go far.”

After graduating from New College, Oxford, he embarked on a career of public service, with senior posts in the Ministry of Labour, The Treasury and the Department of Employment. Later, he was: chief executive of the Employment Service Agency (1971-1975) and of the Training Services Agency (1975-1979); director general of the Building Employers Confederation (1979-1984) and chief executive of The British Library from 1984 until his retirement in 1991.

Ken, who continued to live in New Barnet, then deployed his talents in the service of QE’s Governing Body, Endowment Fund and the Old Elizabethans’ Association.

“He combined an ability to cut through issues and find a way forward with a warm and encouraging nature that made him an inspiring leader who contributed enormously to the health and strength of the School,” said Mr Enright.

Married to Olga, he had four children. Even in the immediate aftermath of Olga’s passing last year, he continued actively to support the School, keeping an appointment to visit QE so that he could be interviewed by a number of the boys.

Speaking at this week’s funeral for Ken, Mr Enright concluded his address with these words: “Ken was a pillar of our community as a pupil and again in his retirement. He will be fondly remembered and sorely missed. He was truly an Elizabethan for life.”