Elmer L. Cooper, a retired University of Maryland agriculture professor and author of two nationally recognized high school textbooks, died of lung cancer Thursday at his home in Beltsville. He was 60.
A lifelong Maryland resident who was raised on a small farm in Hampstead, Dr. Cooper devoted his life to teaching and training thousands of students and future teachers in the field of agriculture.
He began his career teaching vocational agriculture at North Harford High School from 1956 to 1975. He then worked at the state Department of Education to advise on and oversee high school agricultural and vocational programs in Maryland.
In 1979, he and his family moved to Adelphi, and he became an associate professor at the University of Maryland, where he trained future teachers on subjects ranging from using tractors to plant biology to the involvement of genetics in agriculture.
"What he was especially good at was taking technical information and converting it into understandable and usable material for young people," said Merl E. Miller, chairperson of the department of agriculture and extension education at the university.
In his retirement, Dr. Cooper wrote two textbooks on agriculture and agri-science that are now the state's primary texts in the field.
Dr. Clifford Nelson, retired chairman of the university's College of Agriculture and now a Washington State University professor, said Dr. Cooper had a national impact as well. "Texts he wrote are in wide use and are widely respected by agricultural educators across the United States," he said.
Dr. Cooper won several outstanding-teacher awards, and months short of his death the Maryland Agriculture Teachers Association created a scholarship in his name.
"He was quite touched by that," said Dollye Armacost Cooper, his wife of 39 years, who met her husband when she was 10.
Dr. Cooper was an active member of Highland Presbyterian Church in Street.
Services are to be held at 11 a.m. today at the Eline Funeral Home in Hampstead.
Surviving, in addition to his wife, are two daughters, Debra Cooper Weiss of Silver Spring and Reba Joyce Cooper of Beltsville; a son, Timothy Bryan Cooper of New Castle, Del.; three brothers, Arthur, Lawrence and Elwood Cooper, all of Hampstead; and a sister, Elsie Armacost of Upperco.