I am deeply saddened to report that Professor William W. Cooper passed away early in the morning on Wednesday, June 20. He was a giant in the fields of operations research, management science and economics — and, especially in Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) that spans all those disciplines. He had a great life making so many important contribution to so many fields, and of course he was the father of DEA. In a sense, an entire era ends with Bill Cooper, but he will be remembered for a long time because his intellectual ingenuity will continue to breed new knowledge in those that follow him. For those of us fortunate to have known him over the years it will leave a huge void in our lives. He was always so generous with his time and so full of new insights. Many have benefited enormously from Bill’s munificence manifested in his personal attention and initiative in not taking no for an answer and sometimes making the impossible possible.
Born on July 23, 1914, Bill Cooper grew up in one of the roughest neighborhoods of Chicago. During the tumultuous times of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the responsibility for supporting his family fell on young Bill’s shoulders. He dropped out of high school to earn a living as a prizefighter boxer, losing only three of his 63 professional bouts. His career as a prizefighter, however, instilled in Bill the qualities of persistence and determination that enabled him to accomplish many challenging objectives in his academic life. Continuing on to studies at University of Chicago and Columbia University, Bill learned to settle arguments with incisive arguments rather than with his fists, and he was equally effective.
Throughout his career, Bill Cooper espoused the need for problem-driven research. He recognized the need for management researchers to be closely connected with the problems faced by managers in contemporary organizations. To Bill, this did not imply simply applying existing models to solve problems that fit those models. Rather, the objective is to identify new and challenging problems that require original solutions, motivating new basic research and the development of new models to address these problems observed in the field. Such research not only results in improvements in existing management practice but it also substantially enriches intellectual inquiry with the introduction of new problems, models and solution methods to the research literature. This is a tradition that has guided us in DEA research ever since its inception and led to its development as a rigorous method that is useful for addressing so many management and policy problems.
Rajiv D. Banker