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U.S. Navy photo by Chief Warrant Officer Seth Rossman

William Kent Cooper, Washington D.C. architect and 1951 School of Design graduate, died of pneumonia on Jan. 27 at age 91. Cooper, who received his bachelor of fine arts from Penn, played a significant role in crafting Vietnam and Korean War memorials.

For more than 50 years, Cooper built memorials between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. 

1951 School of Design graduate William Kent Cooper

In 1990, Cooper-Lecky, the architectural firm of Cooper and his business partner William Lecky, competed with the original winners of the national design competition — four architects from Pennsylvania State University — for the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The new design added a grove of trees, called “the chapel” and a ceremonial plaza with a mural that depicted the history of the war.

Additionally, the new design incorporated a column of 19 soldiers in windblown ponchos under attack, along with a wounded soldier. 

“They are subject to hostile action,” Cooper said. “They are alert, caught in a moment of time."

At Penn, Cooper studied architecture. He was involved in Hexagon Senior Society, Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, and Poor Richard's Record.  

According to business partner Lecky, Cooper loved to work with churches. At St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, he replaced the pews with movable chairs, making the space more convenient for social celebrations in the nave.

In 2007, the American Institute of Architects, D.C. chapter honored Cooper for his influence in the community.