When Dr. Elaine Copeland finished her dissertation at Oregon State University, her father took it up and down the road to show every neighbor and person he could find. She was the first Black female to complete a Ph.D. in Counseling at Oregon State University. 

Copeland went on to become the Associate Dean and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois, and the President of Clinton College, among many other things. She attributes many of these opportunities to her success in the Counseling program at Oregon State’s College of Education

“I’ve been able to do a lot of things I don’t think I would have been able to do without my advanced degree,” Copeland says. 

Copeland graduated from Oregon State in 1974 with a Ph.D. in Counseling alongside her late husband Robert Copeland. 

Copeland says she was fascinated by Oregon and its differences from South Carolina where she grew up. 

She and her family were one of five Black families in Corvallis, and her husband Robert was one of two Black students in the Science Education Program. 

“We became much more aware of the need for diversity, and how to work across lines with a number of different people.”

Copeland’s experience working with diverse populations was informed by her position at the Educational Opportunities Program. 

“I worked with the students in the Educational Opportunities Program, and even though I was always culturally sensitive, I became much more aware of the racial and ethnic diversity of the country.”

Working for the Educational Opportunities Program gave Copeland an opportunity to support Oregon State students, which she continues to do today. 

“I like to see people that I think I might have touched somewhere along the way go on and do great things,” she says.  

Copeland continues to touch the lives of students by donating to the College of Education.

“I will continue to give as long as I’m living. I realize that much of what I was able to accomplish was because I did have my Ph.D.” she says. “Oregon State was good for the both of us.”

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