Benjamin E. Cooper (1980-97) was a player at Georgetown Day School. His father was a lawyer and his mother was the Dean of the Georgetown University Law Center.
As a student, he was known for hard work and accomplishment. In addition to several community service projects by his junior year, Cooper had become involved in reaching out to PACE to improve the state of quizbowl in the Washington DC area. At the end of his junior year, he was named captain of the Georgetown Day team.
On 12 August 1997, Cooper was driving home from an internship at the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Geophysical Laboratory where he was involved in a variation of the Miller-Urey experiment. While at a stoplight, an overloaded truck with poor brakes ran the red light and hit a car, causing the truck to tip over on top of the car Cooper was driving, fatally injuring Cooper.
The court case took some time, and involved attempts to deflect blame by both the trucking company and the company that had overloaded the truck. In the end, the driver—who had violated restrictions on his license and had multiple tickets for unsafe driving—was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 10–30 years in prison. The trucking company was shut down after inspectors discovered over 200 driving and safety violations on record. The trucking company and the company that had loaded the truck were eventually forced to pay.
There are several memorials in Ben Cooper's name:
- The Friendship Place in Washington DC, an organization that helps those who are homeless, and for whom Cooper volunteered many hours, awards local philanthropists with a "Benjamin E. Cooper Award". This was one of four organizations which Cooper's family donated substantial money after the court settlement.
- Georgetown Day hosts the "Benjamin Cooper Memorial Lecture Series", which sees leaders from various fields come to the school to talk. This series was also partially endowed by Cooper's parents. Lectures have included Sonia Sotomayor, Julian Bond, Maya Angelou, and Elie Weisel.
The Benjamin Cooper Academic Ambassador Award
Saddened by the loss of a promising player and organizer, PACE created the Benjamin Cooper Academic Ambassador Award as a permanent memorial to the promising young man.
The full resolution and citation for the first award:
- Whereas many teams are well recognized by the strength of their winning programs, sportsmanship and service to the academic competition community are not well appreciated. These virtues not only make academic competitions possible, exciting, and enjoyable, but also are fundamentally necessary for the further growth and promotion of this game at all levels of play. By recognizing individuals or organizations that by their example embody the positive aspects of academic competition, all participants involved in quiz bowl honor the competitive spirit and comraderie that quiz bowl competitions provide.
- To encourage the appreciation of these individuals and organizations, be it resolved that the Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence establish a Sportsmanship and Service Award. This commendation is to be presented to a high school academic competition team member, advisor, or organization whose character best promotes the spirit and honor of quiz bowl competition.
- To establish a precedent and standard for future recipients of this award, the PACE committee has further resolved to establish, present, and dedicate this award to the memory of Benjamin E. Cooper of the “It’s Academic” team of Georgetown Day School in Washington DC, as the Benjamin Cooper Memorial Quiz Bowl Ambassador Award.
- Benjamin Cooper was a model student at Georgetown Day School who was well-liked among his colleagues and the faculty. He participated in many activities in school and in service to the community. Because of his enthusiasm and encouragement to promote academic competition among his team members, he was selected as the captain of the varsity team for the 1997-98 school year. On August 12, 1997, Ben was tragically killed in an automobile accident while returning from his summer job. His death was traumatic to his family, the GDS community, and the members of the PACE committee who corresponded and worked with him. Even when discussing quiz bowl and the PACE network with us, the PACE committee was impressed with his enthusiasm about the upcoming year and our plans for the inaugural NSC.
- The members of the PACE committee hereby honor and confer the first Quiz Bowl Ambassador Award to team advisor Sue Ikenberry and the Georgetown Day School academic team in Ben’s honor. The GDS team has had a long history of promoting excellence in quiz bowl competition in the Washington, District of Columbia area and around the country, particularly through its web site.