Dennis Cooper receives honorary doctorate

The RTM Institute for Leadership‚ Ethics and Character could not have become KSU’s standard−bearer for leadership education without the generosity of the RTM Restaurant Group and its board chairman‚ Dennis Cooper. In recognition of the important role RTM and Cooper himself have played at the university‚ Cooper received Kennesaw State’s ninth doctor of humane letters at the May 12 morning commencement ceremony.

Georgia (Jun 8, 2005) — The RTM Institute for Leadership‚ Ethics and Character could not have become KSU’s standard−bearer for leadership education without the generosity of the RTM Restaurant Group and its board chairman‚ Dennis Cooper. In recognition of the important role RTM and Cooper himself have played at the university‚ Cooper received Kennesaw State’s ninth doctor of humane letters at the May 12 morning commencement ceremony.

“Dennis Cooper is a man who has built well on his strong Kentucky roots to forge an exemplary career in leadership and philanthropy‚” KSU President Betty Siegel said in her introduction of Cooper‚ who was also the commencement speaker.

Cooper spoke to the graduates about why RTM decided to become involved with teaching ethic leadership at a university. “No one wants to serve on corporate boards anymore because of ethical issues‚” he said. “But there are positive things happening in business‚ and RTM wanted to show that leadership‚ ethics and character can be taught.”

The RTM Restaurant Group’s leaders‚ including Cooper‚ are living examples of ethical leadership. They are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of their employees and in their communities. The RTM Foundation‚ of which Cooper is executive director‚ donates 5 percent of the company’s pretax profits to community partners and charities. Senior management at RTM also donate their time and expertise as teachers one day each year on the KSU campus‚ and they will become increasingly involved with the institute’s faculty in engaging students in leadership programs.

“We are blessed to have Dennis Cooper as a leader in our community‚” Siegel said.

The afternoon commencement ceremony featured the unusual sight of the speaker dancing on the stage. The speaker‚ Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond‚ danced with joy as his wife‚ Zola‚ stepped across the platform to receive her diploma.

“I’m thinking about her graduation more than the speech‚” Thurmond said before the ceremony. “She’s symbolic of the thousands of non−traditional students who’ve overcome barriers to education.”

Zola Thurmond started at KSU in 1990 with one class. When her daughter was born the next year‚ she put her education on hold. “There was no question about coming back to KSU‚” she said. “The professors here take to non−traditional students like a magnet. They know we want to be there and get excited to see us in class.”

Thurmond‚ proud and excited by his wife’s accomplishments‚ called her “an inspiration for not losing faith in your hopes and dreams.”





A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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