University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

A grateful alumna tells her story

Paula Oppenheim Cope and Timothy Cope
Paula Oppenheim Cope ’75, G’83 and Timothy Cope, photograph by Sally McCay


A grateful alumna tells her story

When Paula Oppenheim Cope ’75, G’83 took to the podium to accept the 2012 Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award last October, she shared what she said was “my story.”

It wasn’t the story most who knew her well were familiar with—that of a successful consultant, facilitator, and training specialist who is president of Cope & Associates, Inc., a management consulting and training firm based in Burlington; of the volunteer who has worked tirelessly on behalf of UVM and its Alumni Association for years; and of the published author and healthcare expert who has spoken widely on the economics of child care, total quality management, and volunteerism.

She focused her story instead on a 16-year-old girl who arrived on campus in the early 1970s penniless, without parents or guardians to help and advise her, and uncertain about to whom she could turn. She followed her instincts, though, and soon found herself in the Financial Aid Office, where she met a man named Rodger Summers. “He was an incredible mentor for me,” she says.

In what Cope remembers as a remarkable display of courage and problem solving, “Rodger made it possible for me to remain at UVM.” Summers arranged for her to stay on campus over break periods, helped her secure legal status as an emancipated minor and in-state resident, and connected her to a network of people who helped her find part-time jobs. “When I graduated from UVM four years later, it was Rodger Summers who was there at my graduation with a dozen roses,” she says with obvious emotion. Summers would later become UVM’s associate dean of students.

During her time at UVM, Cope was a self-driven student leader, active in founding both Women in ROTC and UVM Rescue, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Cope also was active on campus in the Hillel organization. It was gratitude for that UVM experience that led Cope and her husband, Timothy, to make an estate gift establishing the Cope Family Fund. The fund honors Rodger Summers and can be used to help students, like Cope, “who enter the University under unusual circumstances, when counselors are at a loss and no rules apply.” Eligible students must be enrolled in an undergraduate program and demonstrate financial need, with preference given to UVM Rescue or UVM Hillel participants, not to exclude other qualified candidates.

“UVM was a safe place for me to grow up,” Cope says today.


Planned gifts make an impact at UVM
From scholarship funding to state-of-the-art facilities, we rely on you to help us keep our programs competitive. Together, we are working toward a strong future for the University of Vermont and our students. When you extend your support by naming UVM as a beneficiary of your IRA or estate plan, your special relationship with students will continue as a part of your legacy for years to come.

In addition to the satisfaction of making a difference, your gift could also earn you:
•    Membership in UVM’s Wilbur Society.
•    Tax incentives and other financial benefits.
•    Increased financial security.

You may also visit to access free brochures on popular planned-giving and estate-planning topics. Topics include:
•    How to Prepare to Meet With Your Attorney
•    Who Should Inherit Your IRA? (How Family Members Lose Out)
•    Strengthen Your Future With a Charitable Gift Annuity
Visit to start planning your gift. To learn more about structuring your gift to maximize its benefits, contact Becky Arnold ’77, director of gift planning, at 802-656-9535 or toll-free at 888-458-8691.

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