Meet Veteran Calvin Cooper



After 20 years in the Army, Calvin retired in 2000 as a Quarter Master at Rock Island Arsenal with a rank of E7 Sergeant First Class. He joined the Army in 1978 straight out of high school and earned multiple awards and recognition for his superior service and dedication, both overseas and abroad. These included a National Defense Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Joint Accommodation Medal and Military Service Award, to name a few.


Calvin was one of four officers hired when the Security Office was created at St. Ambrose. He is associate director of security today.


AT SAU, Calvin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice in 2006 and completed his Master of Criminal Justice degree in 2013.  He said he initially felt lost sitting in a classroom as an older veteran accustomed to military traits of behavior. Professors were continually telling him to stop calling them sir or ma'am.  One of the most difficult challenges he faced was learning that not everyone understands the military mindset of giving a command and following an order. He felt as if he spoke a different language and that no one could understand. Still, he persisted and continued to adjust and learn a new way of dealing with others. 


"Be all that you can be, don't settle" is what he answered. He emphasized that he was motivated by this quote that it is what gave him the drive to keep going. He also stated that veterans need to come here "keep your eyes and ears open and have the attitude to learn all that you can."


"SAU is home," said Calvin, who left the military feeling alone and out of place. He credits SAU for bringing balance to his life with work and school as well as making him feel at home. He recounted on a time when he met Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, president of St. Ambrose. When she said to him, "Welcome home Calvin," this had a profound impact.  Loyalty is such a factor in his life and once he heard those words, he knew that his loyalty was forever with SAU. This bond that was formed made Calvin feel embraced for who he truly was. SAU taught him how to transition from being a leader to sometimes being a follower. SAU gave him a chance to grow.

 — Interviewed by Cecillia Nichols, an SAU nursing student who was an Army Combat Medic in Iraq from 2010-2012 and served eight years of active duty and as a reserve. 

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