Westmont Magazine The Copes in Carolina
While Dennis Cope ’65 valued his education at Westmont (especially meeting his wife, Mary Jean Cook ’65, on campus), he wondered whether he could compete successfully at the University of Kansas Medical School. His concerns proved groundless. “My preparation as a natural science major at Westmont was outstanding,” he relates. “I felt very comfortable throughout medical school.”
After completing his training at UCLA in internal medicine and endocrinology, Dennis began a 25-year career at the university as a professor, physician, and director of the Medical Ambulatory Care Center. He rose from chief resident in internal medicine to director of the residency program in internal medicine, overseeing both the residents and the faculty teaching them.
Meanwhile, Mary Jean, who describes herself as the original “soccer mom,” raised their three soccer players and did some teaching. An avid volunteer, she also coordinated weddings at her church.
The Copes kept close ties with Westmont. Dennis served on the Alumni Council in the early 1970s, including two years as president. In 1976 he joined the College’s board of trustees and just finished his term after 22 years.
“What a great privilege to be involved with quality people of God on the board,” Dennis reflects. “I’m especially grateful for President Winter’s leadership. It’s been a blessing to see the academic and spiritual stature of the College develop over the years.”
Both Dennis and Mary Jean say that Westmont professors deeply impressed them. “Sitting under great teachers like Drs. Hubbard, Gundry, Bouslough, and Monroe has influenced our lives forever,” Mary Jean explains.
“I learned about effective teamwork and leadership at Westmont,” adds Dennis, a former student body president. “We made close friendships with both faculty and students that have endured to this day.”
Two of the Cope’s three children also graduated from Westmont. Kari ’92 earned an M.A. in English literature from the Claremont Graduate School and teaches school and coaches soccer in Charleston, S.C. Kristi ’96 works in human resources at Santa Barbara Bank & Trust. Kevin, employed in the interactive video division of Disney, graduated from UCLA.
Three years ago, Dennis and Mary Jean headed east, moving to the country near Charleston, S.C. Dennis took a position as professor of medicine and director of the division of general internal medicine and geriatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina, the oldest medical school in the South. He also directs the Primary Care Program at the Ralph A. Johnson Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Charleston.
Recently, he received the Hammer Award from Vice President Gore’s Partnership for Reinventing Government for increasing the quality of care at the Medical Center while saving money. Federal employees who put customers first, empower employees, cut red tape, return to the basics, and/or achieve results Americans care about, earn this honor.
Mary Jean loves living on the river and watching the shore birds and animals that share their space. As a docent with the Middleton Foundation plantation and house, she has immersed herself in local history.
The Copes miss California and Westmont, and continue to value the integration of faith and life they learned in college. “Everything at Westmont is educational, and we appreciate that progressive attitude,” Dennis says.