In Memoriam, W. Kent Cooper (1926-2018)

W. Kent Cooper, A.I.A. (1926-2018)
Contributed by the Rev. Jack Andersen, ECCC’s founding Executive Director, 1988-2005

Episcopal Camps & Conference Centers has lost a great cheerleader, gifted architectural artist, and friend, Kent Cooper. He has died at the age of 91. Over most of the span of my involvement and leadership of ECCC, Kent Cooper had been a part of my consultative team in the planning and/or design work of more than thirteen diocesan camps and centers of the Episcopal Church. His efforts from 1972 to 2004 stretched from coast to coast. Kent had also been a featured speaker at an Annual Conferences and was honored by ECCC at our Meeting in 2008.

I first met Kent in 1966 when he was recommended as the architect to undertake a Master Plan for St. John’s Chapel, a part of Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut where I was at the time Vicar. Kent had already designed several Episcopal churches in the Washington/Maryland area and was deeply involved in his parish church, Saint John’s, Georgetown, as well as within the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

He had earned his undergraduate degree in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and while completing a Master’s Degree in Architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Cooper became a protégé of the famous American architect, Eero Saarinen. Following his graduation, Saarinen hired Cooper and placed him as the overseer of Saarinen’s construction of the Washington Dulles International Airport. Kent’s reputation rocketed from there.

Kent’s firm, Cooper-Lecky Architects, would become the “architects of record” for the actual construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. At the time the young architectural student at Yale, Maya Lin, did not yet have her license, and they worked together to complete that historic project. Later, Cooper-Lecky Architects won a national competition to design the Korea War Memorial. Cooper’s firm had proposed a strikingly bold and poignant bronze design of an infantry platoon in the rice patties of Korea. One can see uncertainty and fear in the glances of those figures in bronze faces as they seemed to proceed into the unknown that was Korea.  

Kent’s professional career would leave its mark on other widely diverse projects such as a DC Metro Station, the Vice President’s residence, Blair House, the Aquarium at the Baltimore Zoo, St. Paul’s Church on Capitol Hill, and private day schools and military buildings. The Washington Post in its obituary said of Cooper that “as one of a handful of architects who midwifed architectural modernism into Washington, he helped drag the District’s obsession with antiquated building design kicking and screaming into the light of the 20th century.”

Yet as Kent Cooper, the Episcopalian, his passion was always about people and their creative spaces; places like camps for kids and conference centers for adults of all ages. It was here, at “homes away from home,” as he put it, that his keen, loving sense of people would come to the fore.

I’ve tried to reconstruct a list of camp & conference center project that Kent and I did together on behalf of ECCC. I’m sure the list is incomplete but if you visit one of these sites, or now happen to be its director, look for some architectural expression of this man’s enduring love for people in relationship to one another.

One remains at Roslyn, the Virginia Diocesan Center, in Richmond, Virginia, a “sculpture” that is located in the lower level of Gibson Hall. There you will find a “conversation pit,” aptly named for a period during the 1970s when American adults were re-discovering one another on weekend retreats. It was another Kent Cooper original!

During my professional career as a consultant to Episcopal camps and conference centers, I worked with architectural firms all across the country. It was Kent Cooper’s focus on people and their interactions that made his work such an architectural gift to America.


•          Roslyn (Dio. Of VA)

•          Camp Capers (Dio. Of W. TX)

•          Thompson House (St. Louis, MO)* 

•          The Summit (Greensboro, NC)* 

•          Claggett Center (Dio. Of Maryland)

•          Crossroads (Dio. Of NJ)

•          Christ the King (Dio. of Albany)

•          Diocese of Pittsburgh*

•          Camp Galilee (Dio. Of Nevada)

•          Waycross (Dio. Of Indianapolis)

•          Grace Point (Dio. Of East Tenn.)

•          DuPont Memorial House (Dio. Of Delaware)

 *Incomplete or closed


Announcing ECCC's Hero of Camping Ministry

On July 9, at General Convention in Austin, Texas, Bishop Brian Prior presented Lisa Kimball, Associate Dean at Virginia Theological Seminary the 2018 Hero of Camping Ministry Award. Watch the video here.

Lisa's remarks:

The funny thing is in 1988 [when ECCC was founded], I was not in third grade, I was well out of college and on my way into the vocation that I claimed very dearly, as a lay Christian formation leader, now Associate Dean of Virginia Seminary.

What I just want to say to all of you is it's never too late. I actually never went to summer camp as a kid, because I grew up in Europe, and they didn't send me to summer camp. So, my first experience of summer camp was as an adult, and was being brought in as a volunteer camp counselor, and it has truly changed my life, as well as all the conferences and convention meetings, and leadership events that we've held at Camp and Conference Centers across the Episcopal Church. I don't know if any of you put your stickers on the map, in the ECCC booth, but I ran out one sheet, and I had to go into another sheet because so many of our host facilities have been great places of my learning.

What I do want to commend us to recognize, is that the immersive experience in Christian formation, that happens when people have the privilege of time away, time in a quiet place with God, time in community with others in a Christian context, is essential for all of us in the 21st century. We move quickly, we think fast, we are hyper-connected, and if you could see my shirt, it says "Log on, crash and reboot." The log on is a fireplace, the crash is a tent, and the reboot are some hiking boots.

I commend to you the issues of access, and support for our Camp and Conference Ministries, for some cultural communities, going to summer camp is not a normative experience. So, for us to assume that everyone wants to go, or understands the benefit thereof, is naive. But, there are ways for us to invite people into that experience appropriately. Perhaps, a one day, half day, family event at your local Camp and Conference Center. Perhaps a one day sort of immersive vacation Bible school experience for children, with the right adults and community, and then grow into an overnight, and then experience a retreat for older adults, perhaps a chance for people who are aging and in transition in their lives, to come to a place of rest and respite. Think about access for people with special needs, think about access for people who do not have economic means to just pay for these experiences. We all need them, and they indeed are holy, holy opportunities for spiritual growth.

So, as we practice the way of love, may we practice it deeply in community. In places of retreat and mutual regard, that I would call Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers. So, thank you for this award. I'm very honored.


September News: Reflect 


News from South Carolina

On August 2, the state Supreme Court in South Carolina ruled that several properties must be returned to The Episcopal Church by the breakaway Diocese of South Carolina. St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center is among the properties that are set to return to The Episcopal Church.

More information is available here.


2017's Peter Bergstrom Leadership Award Presented

On January 16, 2017, we presented the second annual Peter Bergstrom Leadership Award, which recognizes a member of our community who has been a mentor and an advocate of the camping and retreat ministry.

Last year's recipient, Peter Bergstrom, presented this year's award, to someone who has always been actively available to support the organization and its members:

"Like Google, this person has been an open source of tips, insight and resources that come with 39+ years of experience."

Our award winner has been a mentor to many people in this organization at all job levels. This person has helped our organization develop a relationship with the American Camp Association and has personally been a sounding board to camps as they go through accreditation. Our award winner took their own camp from being in the red, with dropping attendance, to being ACA accredited, self-sustaining, and a point of pride for its diocese, along the way developing many innovative camp programs, always with same goal: help campers to build self esteem.

Join us in thanking Bill Tubbs, Executive Director at Camp Huston, for his years of caring, wise guidance and friendship.