CALEB “CAL” COOPER (1940- )
Born in Edgar, Arizona, in 1940, Caleb “Cal” Cooper lived in various small towns throughout the West and Midwest and in Arkansas. From high school in San Rafael, he went on to the University of California, Berkeley, where he received an MS in Civil Engineering in 1964. His NPS career began the summer after high school as a wage grade employee in a garage in Mount Rainier. Like his father before him, he would go on to a distinguished career in design and construction in the NPS. Cal worked seasonally for the Western Office of Design and Construction as a student engineer in Lassen, Glacier, Grand Teton, and the office in San Francisco. New employees were required to prove themselves in the field working with engineers on building projects in the parks before advancing to permanent positions.
In 1967 the NPS appointed Cal to its Western Service Center in San Francisco. He was recognized as an exceptional engineer from the beginning and respected both in the design office and in the field by both design professionals and park managers. With his easy going friendly manner and superb technical skills, he rose through the ranks of the early Denver Service Center from Branch Chief of Design to Assistant Manager Western Team to Deputy Assistant Manager. He proved to be as adept a manager as he was a design professional.
With the combination of his personality and his technical ability, Cal was able to generate respect among those he worked with, office or field, wage grade or professional or manager, GS-1 to SES. He was a quiet, forceful behind the scenes advisor to some of the Service’s top leaders. Cal fought and won the battle with FHWA to build the Generals Highway in Sequoia to park highway standards. He also brought the power of professional respect to the development of the Service’s Guidelines for Sustainable Design when others wondered why we should do things differently.
Cal lived the NPS mission and applied his talents to bringing the planning, design and construction professions up to the standards of the Organic Act. A consummate park design professional, he was equally at home with architects, landscape architects, engineers of all kinds, resource managers, interpreters and superintendents. Few people could be recognized as a Fellow, American Society of Civil Engineers by his national professional peers; win a Design Award from the Service Center-based Park Arts Association; and earn a Meritorious Service Award representing his contributions to the parks.
Cal and his wife Pat are retired in Littleton, CO. Their love for parks and people has not diminished a whit. His humor is still dry and to the point. His eyes still sparkle, he laughs easily, and his grin is still ear to ear. No one has ever been a better friend to the parks and their visitors.