Anna and Stephen Cooper compete with each other for the best grades, but it’s all in good fun with this husband and wife duo. “It’s a great way
to motivate one another,” Anna Cooper, 25, explains. The couple is set to graduate this May with bachelor’s degrees in business administration through the OPTIONS program. Both stopped college to start a family and made a joint decision to finish what they had started.
“I was laid off from my job and realized that I had plenty of experience, but no degree. That’s when I decided to go back to school and give my children a better life,” says Stephen, 31, a men’s furnishing assistant at Nordstrom department store.
Anna, an assistant in the Ladue School District, also wanted to be more marketable within her institution as well as a role model for the couple’s children. “My husband and my kids definitely helped me make this decision. It’s been awesome,” she says. “I love that Stephen and I both have an understanding of what the other is going through. When I’m down, he’s there for me and vice versa.”
Stephen says their decision to attend Fontbonne was simple. His mother, Vera Cooper, who graduated with a master’s in computer education in 1994, and his God-sister, Nicole Moore, Fontbonne’s director of financial aid, were both recommending the university.
“Coming to Fontbonne was a smooth process,” Stephen says. “I’ve recommended Fontbonne to everyone. People have excuses for why that can’t go back to school, but we’re married with kids. It’s doable if you really want it.”
Anna agrees, but mentions how fortunate the couple is to have such supportive parents who babysit their kids, Aryka, 5, and Stephen III, 3, on school and study team meeting nights. “Since OPTIONS programs are always on the same night, it was easier for my mother-in-law to block out that time to babysit. The consistency really worked for everyone’s schedule,” Anna explains.
For Stephen, the experience has given him even more of an appreciation for family. “Having a shared goal that we started and will finish together has meant a lot to me. It’s showed me that whatever lies ahead, we can handle it and can achieve our goals,” he says.
Being in the same class has stirred up some funny moments for the two. “It’s hilarious when the instructors find out that we’re married — sometimes they don’t believe us or think we’re brother and sister,” Anna says.
The Coopers say they can’t wait to walk across the stage at graduation. “I’m looking forward to walking and shaking Dr. Golden’s hand and seeing my family in the stands,” Stephen says, while Anna adds, “It’s exciting — especially since Stephen’s sitting right next to me.”
Both are considering entering the MBA program at Fontbonne this August — because now it’s about starting and meeting new challenges — together.