NASA People

Center Snapshot: Susan Cooper
Susan Cooper. Image above: Susan Cooper volunteered at NASA night at Chili's restaurant in Hampton. NASA/Sean Smith

Denise Lineberry

Susan Cooper, a strategic partnership and performance analyst, uses her experience to present opportunities to others.

The National Kidney Foundation estimates that 67,000 people in the United States die of kidney failure every year. She avoided becoming a statistic when she received a transplant to replace her failed kidney.

With an appreciation for life and the hope of giving others that same appreciation, she volunteers to speak with prospective transplantation recipients.

“I am really lucky that I was able to find a living, unrelated donor. Normally, those in need of a transplant seek out eligible family members for kidney donation, but I did not have that as an available option," Cooper said. "Joe immediately offered to donate his kidney without hesitation. I am eternally grateful to him." Her donor is a former Langley employee, Joe Shockcor.

Another option for Cooper would have been dialysis, which is the term for several different methods of artificially filtering the blood. People who require dialysis are kept alive, but they give up some degree of freedom, because of their dialysis schedule, fragile health or both.

There is nothing fragile about Cooper.

She loves to exercise and is an avid gym member. And her job at NASA Langley in the Strategic Relationships Office (SRO) keeps her mentally fit.

"In the center management activities, I enable performance measures and analysis to determine our progress towards meeting strategic objectives," she said. "In our partnering activities, I facilitate various relationship collaborations, all of which I enjoy for the opportunity to grow skills, learn about Langley’s contributions and meet new people."

She also enjoys the "breadth of creative and amazing technologies and people."

Her “multi-faceted position” allows her to interact with people on and off the center. "I have been privileged to participate in and support events such as NASA Exploration Day at Busch Gardens and our recent TEDx NASA, where I have an opportunity to interact with the public and express my own enthusiasm about the value of NASA Langley Research Center," Cooper said.

"I look forward each day to supporting the success of this organization."

And she looks forward to sharing more of NASA’s accomplishments.

She ponders the idea of sharing her own successes by writing a book about her survival experience. She wants to reach and inspire as many people as possible.

"Sometimes others enjoy hearing about the challenges in my life because it makes them feel better and more able to deal with their own problems," Cooper said.

At a young age, her husband died from a brain tumor.

"I am humbled that I was able to help him through chemo and radiation, and proud that I was able to keep him home and surrounded by the people he loved when he died," she said. "This experience maybe causes most other accomplishments I have achieved to pale in comparison."

Again, she was taught a new appreciation. Each aspect of her life tends to make her appreciate more.

Growing up in Northern Virginia suburbs, Cooper sees the quality in Virginia’s "cultural, historical and environmental diversity."

"I have been fortunate to travel to Europe and South America, and I enjoy imagining what life was like in ancient civilizations," she said. "Machu Picchu is the most memorable place I have been for its remarkable preservation and sense of history." Machu Picchu is a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary, which is also referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas."

She has recently been working on her cooking skills and has been experimenting with new foods. It’s something else she enjoys sharing with others.

Growing up with three sisters, learning to share was a requirement. Her sisters live in Northern Virginia. Her son is attending college in Arizona. And she adopted a part chow, part huskey, "Chusky," from Butler Farm Animal Aid.

They are her family. And they are another reason she appreciates life.

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