Richard Cooley (1923-2016)

richard cooley

The dive flaps failed.

That’s not what Richard Cooley wanted to hear when he was test flying a P-38 fighter plane during World War II in Europe. On that December 1944 day, the new plane plummeted to the ground. It cost Cooley his right arm.

Think that deterred him? No way. Then a student at Yale who competed in tennis, squash and football, Cooley recovered from the catastrophe, quit football to train himself how to play tennis, squash and golf left-handed. The result? He became the national squash champion in the mid-1950s.

But he was just getting started. After graduating from Yale, he went on to become a banking executive at Wells Fargo and Seafirst. And when he retired, he taught at the Foster School of Business. His class “The Chief Executive Officer and the Board of Directors” was one of the highest rated courses in the UW’s Executive MBA program. After Bill Ayer, ’68, retired chairman and CEO of Alaska Airlines Group, took over as the teacher, he always invited Cooley back to speak on the first day of class.

Says program director Louise A. Kaputstka: “Dick was the quintessential leader, generous with his time, modest about his accomplishments, honest about his life lessons.” Cooley died Sept. 21 at the age of 92. His spirit will inspire us forever.