MCGILL: Emileigh Cooper's Legacy Secure With Endowment, Warrior Award
The Word on the Herd -- Feb. 8, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – These four words might seem like a common home run call, but they certainly apply to the life of Emileigh Cooper: She touched ’em all.
The Emileigh Jo Cooper Endowed Scholarship for Softball, announced Friday at the Marshall University softball team’s annual preseason banquet, will help preserve Cooper’s legacy and leave a lasting impact on current and future Thundering Herd softball players.
“It’s really all been driven by the Cooper family,” said Shonda Stanton, MU’s softball coach. “I think that’s one thing we’ve seen throughout how strong they are and how committed they are to help Emileigh’s legacy live on.”
The endowment was announced two days shy of the one-year anniversary of Cooper’s passing. The former Herd softball player, who died last February at the age of 22, was celebrated and remembered at the banquet, which was attended by Cooper’s family members.
“They all showed up which couldn’t have been an easy thing, by any means,” Stanton said.
In fact, Cooper’s father, Butch, provided the opening remarks at the banquet for his daughter’s coach at Jackson (Ohio) High School, Don Kunz, who helped spearhead the fundraising effort to make the endowment a reality.
“We were able to do something that will allow Emileigh to be remembered forever,” Kunz said. “One thing she always did is she could change and make a difference. She changed everybody’s attitude and positive outlook in everything she did. We wanted to do something positive.”
Cooper was a 2011 graduate of Jackson and 2015 graduate of Marshall. She played four seasons for Stanton, elevating herself from a freshman who recorded four hits in 14 at-bats to a senior who batted .434 and made the All-Conference USA second team. Stanton said Cooper always strived to improve.
“That’s how she lived her life every single day,” Stanton said. “She got up and she wanted more. She came in and wanted in the program and we were full. She was such a good athlete and she really wanted to be here, so we added her. She pinch-ran for us and she wanted more, she wanted to steal bases. She wanted to be a starter and she became a rotational starter as a junior. She played at second and played in the outfield and she wanted more. She really solidified her spot in the outfield and she wanted more, so she hit over .400.
“She worked incredibly hard to get there and she was so passionate. It was her passion and her pride and her loyalty.”
The endowment wasn’t the only tribute revealed at the banquet. The softball program also named its first “Warrior Award” winner, created in honor of Cooper.
“Every fall each member of our team comes up with their one word, and this one word must mean something to them, something they can identify closely with and become their motto for the year,” said Kendall Fearn, Marshall softball’s associate head coach. “Cooper’s word was warrior. It was only fitting to use her word, warrior, to name the award in her memory of a current or former player who best represents the energy and passion for the game that she had.
“This recipient needs to be fearless on the field, needs to take every opportunity and run with it like Cooper did, someone who drives positive energy and inspires those around her. Someone who bleeds green.”
Student assistant and former player Rebecca Myslenski was named the recipient of the first Warrior Award. The first recipient of the Cooper endowment will be named in the fall. They are two meaningful gestures by the softball program, its supporters and Cooper’s family and friends that will guarantee her legacy remains secure at Marshall.
“We often talk to our team about leaving a legacy,” Fearn said. “We ask them to write what they want to be remembered for and how they want to be remembered. Speaking on the legacy of Emileigh Cooper has become more than just as passage. Her legacy has become a standard for us as coaches. When we go out recruiting, we look for players with intangibles Cooper had.
“She raised the bar for the expectations of what type of player we want in our program. She is Marshall softball.”