Van Cooley obituary

Contact: Cheryl Roland


A longtime educator who worked extensively with Michigan school districts and spearheaded education reform as a professor at Western Michigan University has died.

Dr. Van Cooley, interim dean of WMU's College of Education and Human Development, died suddenly during a trip to Florida July 31. He was 64. Cooley, a member of the WMU faculty since 1996, was vacationing with friends in Florida when stricken.

Cooley was appointed in January to serve for 2012 as interim dean of WMU's education college. Prior to that he had served since 2006 as chair of the Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology. Before joining the WMU faculty, he enjoyed a 22-year career in public education in Indiana, holding positions as a middle and high school teacher and as an assistant superintendent and superintendent.

Working with teachers and administrators, Cooley developed state and national award-winning programs that included professional development initiatives, programs to address the needs of at-risk students and efforts focused on technology in the classroom. After his 1996 appointment to WMU, he was the co-principal investigator on nearly $9 million dollars in grants from the Wallace Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education with a focus on improving the way data is used by school leaders to encourage the use of more effective teaching strategies and improve student performance.

Cooley was active on campus as a member of the WMU Faculty Senate Executive Board for 11 years. In addition, he served as a member of the Research Policies Committee, Campus Planning and Finance Council, Research Policies Council, Academic and Information Technology Council and the Faculty Senate Committee on Extended University Programs.

Cooley earned bachelor's, master's, specialist and doctoral degrees from Ball State University.


A memorial service will be held Saturday, Aug. 11, at Randall and Roberts Funeral Home, 12010 Allisonville Road, Fishers, Ind., (317) 842-5310. Visitation will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, at the funeral home. There will be a short visitation Aug. 11 at noon before the 1 p.m. service. Burial will follow.