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Richard “Dick” Coop, 1940-2021

Richard “Dick” Howell Coop, Ed.D., a member of the faculty at the UNC School of Education for 30 years, died on Dec. 29 after a courageous battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 81.

Portrait of Dick Coop
Dick Coop.

Coop, who led a dual career as a sports psychologist to some of America’s top professional athletes, served at Carolina as a professor of educational psychology until retiring in 1999.

Born in 1940 in Campbellsville, Ky., Coop graduated from Western Kentucky University with a degree in biology and psychology. In 1968 he received his Ed.D. in educational psychology from Indiana University in Bloomington.

Coop was an author, teacher, speaker, and a founder of the field of sports psychology. After publishing his first book with Gary Wiren titled “The New Golf Mind” in 1978, he went on to write numerous articles and books on the mental aspects of golf.

Coop learned the game of golf in graduate school, but was a life-long student of the psychology of human performance. Starting at a young age watching his father coach basketball, football, and baseball, Coop learned how athletes respond to pressure situations. Overcoming polio as a child, Coop became an athlete himself, and learned from his own reactions to tense game situations.

During his career, Coop worked with top professional golfers, as well as athletes in many other sports, including NASCAR drivers, professional athletes in football, basketball and baseball, and with members of the UNC-Chapel Hill basketball, football, and golf teams.

Called “Dr. C” by the athletes with whom he worked, he was known for having a quick and sharp sense of humor that quickly put athletes at ease, respected for his knowledge, and loved for his ability to take complex ideas and present them in ways that changed peoples’ lives.

Coop was a husband, a father, a friend, a polio survivor, a man of faith, and a fierce advocate for helping people achieve their potential.

He was preceded in death by his parents Sara and Paul Coop. He leaves behind wife Sharon, daughter Kristi Gordon and spouse Andrew, daughter Kelli Dunn and spouse Steve, son Daniel, sister Anne Murray, granddaughters Maggie and Lucy Gordon, Clara Dunn and grandson Cooper Dunn, and nieces Lee Anne Murray and Susan Murray Temple.

A memorial service will be held on Feb. 19 at 11 a.m. at University United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill. A live streamed YouTube video will be available for those who prefer not to attend in person.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Richard “Dick” Coop Endowed Faculty Scholar in Education Fund at the UNC School of Education, Office of External Relations, Suite 1010, Peabody Hall, Campus Box 3500, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3500.

The Central Kentucky News-Journal newspaper has this remembrance of Coop.

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