#OUDNA is the championship mindset every athlete, coach, professor, student and alumni at the University of Oklahoma embodies. OUDNA connects every Oklahoma Sooner, both current and past, with a mindset and thirst for success. Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, and I share this OUDNA making my Cooper Aerobics experience this summer more than an internship, but rather a rare opportunity to learn from him and his success.
Shared Alma Mater
The week I began my summer marketing internship at Cooper Aerobics was the same week Dr. Cooper received an honorary degree from the University of Oklahoma. When I looked at the photos of Dr. Cooper receiving this award I couldn’t help but feel proud that we shared an alma mater. I wanted to know more about how he ended up running track at OU, his time on campus and how his experience shaped his path.
I was surprised to learn Dr. Cooper and I had more than an alma mater in common. I mean he is the “father of aerobics”‒how dare I compare? The more I listened to his journey leading him to OU, the more I realized the commonalities in our stories.
Every Oklahoma Sooner fan has heard the verse: “I’m a Sooner born and Sooner bred and when I die, I’ll be Sooner dead.” A verse heard countless times‒and I mean countless. While Dr. Cooper had admired OU and its athletic teams, growing up he was inclined to attend Oklahoma State University like both of his sisters. Both of my parents as well as my older brother attended Texas A&M and I cheered on the Aggies for years. While we both didn’t expect to end up at OU, our time in Norman has allowed us to pursue our respective passions.
Dr. Cooper’s “Sooner story” began in high school when, on the recommendation of his principal, Leo Mayfield, he began to run track. Dr. Cooper improved his running with advice from Herold Keith, a sports publicist at OU, which led him to go undefeated his senior year of high school, and receive a track scholarship to OU.
His time at OU allowed his love for running to flourish ultimately leading him to change the world with his preventive health and fitness research. He ran track for three years as he was accepted to OU’s medical school after only three years and graduated from PreMed in 1952. Fast forward to his time after medical school, graduating in 1956, Dr. Cooper thought he was experiencing a heart problem at age 29 while water skiing which changed his life.
Dr. Cooper got back into shape, began running again and, after a lot of career path changes, eventually pursued degrees in exercise physiology and preventive medicine. He even ran the Boston Marathon in 1962 placing 101st, as Dr. Cooper says “which sounds great but only 150 people ran it back then.”
From this moment on Dr. Cooper embarked on changing the world as he introduced the term and meaning of aerobics, and wrote the bestselling book with the same name in 1968 sparking the fitness revolution which subsequently improved the lives of millions of people worldwide. Fast forward, yet again, and Dr. Cooper has accepted an innumerable amount of awards and recognition and has made the idea that exercise is necessary to not only get healthy, but stay healthy, popular.
Significance Over Success
When I asked Dr. Cooper what advice he would give to a current OU student about to graduate like myself he shared a Bob Buford quote with me: “work toward the goal of not only being successful but significant.” While I don’t necessarily want to grow up‒not that anyone does‒this advice gave me confidence in the next step of my journey, graduation in May. I may not know what the future holds, but speaking with Dr. Cooper has made me realize I can pursue my passion of writing in the public relations/marketing field with stronger confidence than before. I hope to one day embody Dr. Cooper’s entrepreneurial spirit, the determination and belief in his own work is a lesson everyone should hear and I am fortunate to have heard it firsthand.
At the age of 88, Dr. Cooper has lived and worked in Dallas for almost 50 years now and still sees patients at Cooper Clinic and lectures around the world. While he doesn’t often make it to Norman for football games, he turns into an Okie one day every year: when OU plays Texas at the Cotton Bowl. This football season may be my last as a student at the University of Oklahoma but I, along with my approximately 80,000 closest friends, will cheer on the Sooners in Norman for him‒the father of aerobics.
Blog provided by Afton Guedea, Cooper Aerobics Marketing intern and Student at the University of Oklahoma.