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Business Professor Samuel Coppage Remembered Fondly By Colleagues, Students

Samuel CoppageSamuel Coppage

Samuel Coppage, associate professor of information technology and decision sciences in Old Dominion University's College of Business and Public Administration, died Sunday, March 9 at the River Pavilion of Sentara General Hospital. He was 65.

The long-time faculty member, who left a stint in the New York business world to join Old Dominion in 1983, was fondly remembered by colleagues and students, for both his scholarship and mentorship.

Bruce Rubin, associate professor of finance in the College of Business and Public Administration, said Coppage lived by Coco Chanel's maxim "In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different," using it as a tagline in emails.

"Sam certainly was one of the most unique individuals I have ever known," Rubin said "He cared deeply about his students and colleagues. In many ways he ways the conscience of the faculty regarding curricula issues, always aware of the potential for unintended consequences."

"He was truly one of the most brilliant people I have known. His presence will be greatly missed by the College, University, and local community to which he gave so much of his energy."

Coppage's influence on Norfolk, Old Dominion University, and especially his students will be felt for years to come, even in his absence.

For David Simmonds, an adjunct faculty member in information technology who will earn a Ph.D. in the spring graduation ceremony, Coppage meant even more.

"Dr. Coppage was my Ph.D. advisor and he was also the course coordinator for the course I teach. But much more than that, he was like a father figure to me," Simmonds said. "My own dad passed a year and a half ago and ever since, I had adopted him Dr. Coppage as my dad. He was extremely instrumental in keeping me, a Ph.D. student from Jamaica, here."

Coppage had been very ill, but Simmonds said that a few weeks ago, he ordered Coppage to stick around to make good on his promise to hand him his Ph.D. at graduation. "I am sorry he is not going to be there to see me graduate, but I do intend to make him proud," Simmonds said.

Elizabeth Rasnick, another of Coppage's Ph.D. students, credits him for her M.B.A. degree completion from Old Dominion.

"Dr. Coppage and I met early in my computer sciences master's program. Over the next several years, he patiently helped me learn, not solely about academics, but also about the complexities of academic life," Rasnick said.

"Without his encouragement I would not have dreamed of achieving such a degree. This is how Dr. Coppage was with his students in all the lessons he taught."

Coppage earned his Ph.D. in computer science in 1978 from New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

He returned to Norfolk, Va., where he had grown up the son of Samuel Coppage, Sr., a prominent Norfolk dentist and a community and civil rights leader. The younger Coppage received a 2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Award from Tidewater Community College (TCC) for his efforts to preserve and edit his father's papers, which cover his civic and professional activities in Norfolk from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Rubin said Coppage was also proud of his service work with the Feldman Chamber Music Society, the Tidewater AIDS Task Force and the Norfolk Sister City Association. He was one of the first life-members of the Youth Branch of the NAACP and previously represented the city of Norfolk on the TCC Board. Flags at Old Dominion University will be lowered to half-staff in Coppage's memory.