The Once in a Blue Moon ball, held February 29, 1992, was magical for Peter Cooper and Celia Rodee. First, the couple co-founded and co-chaired this semi-annual black-tie event for Cornellians in New York City, where they got their start as active volunteers. Then, the ball celebrated two of their top priorities: honoring local alumni for their contributions and raising scholarship support.
“That night brought together things we felt were particularly important,” says Peter. “Celebration of alumni, celebration of Cornell, and providing for students in need.”
On top of all that, their son, Alexander, a future Cornellian, was born three days later.
That evening exemplifies the couple’s commitment to volunteer service. Peter and Celia now boost alumni engagement in Chicago, where they work—Peter as a lawyer with Lawrence Kamin, LLC, and Celia through a career with JP Morgan Chase—and make their home. They encourage prospective students and help strengthen the university, often working as a team.
“They are the consummate Cornell volunteers, and they work in tandem during many of their activities,” says Ron Van Ormer, major gifts officer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).
Both Celia and Peter received significant financial aid while students at Cornell. Thus, increasing support for student aid has been a long-time focus of their volunteer activities.
Celia says she volunteers because she wants to give back and to ensure a legacy for future Cornellians. She therefore considers her election to the Cornell University Board of Trustees one of the greatest honors of her life. Serving from 2002 to 2005, she made decisions on major issues, including the selection of two university presidents, while trying to provide the perspective of the alumni who had elected her.
She also served on the Cornell University Council from 1988 to 2017 and is now a life member. Celia served on the Board of the Cornell Alumni Association and is a sustaining member of the President’s Council of Cornell Women, after years of engagement with this group. She is also active with the Class of 1981 as affinity chair and nominating chair, and has held several previous leadership roles: President, Reunion chair, and annual fund representative. Celia was a member of the CALS Advisory Council from 2007 to 2013, and currently serves as chair of the Cornell Botanic Gardens Advisory Council.
In all her volunteer work, Celia wants to connect students with Cornell and with alumni, and to help ensure that any student can realize the Cornell dream through scholarship.
Peter, likewise, cares deeply about students and prospective students. His volunteer passion project is the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN), where he is now serving as Chicago area-chair for a second time and sits on the CAAAN Advisory Committee. Peter is particularly proud of CAAAN’s role in increasing the number of Chicagoans who attend Cornell each year.
The Cornell Club of Chicago would not be the same without Peter, a longtime active member, who served as co-president with Celia from 2004 to 2007. He was a leader during transitions that formed the Cornell Alumni Association. Peter is now a lifetime member of the Cornell University Council, after 20 active years with this organization. The Class of 1980 has benefited from Peter’s service, who was Annual Fund representative, class correspondent and a member of various campaign major gifts committees. He has been on the Student and Academic Services Advisory Council since 2010.
Through all their volunteer service for Cornell, Peter and Celia help bring alumni closer to Cornell and to each other. Says Celia: “One of the things we’ve loved best are the Cornell friendships we’ve made.”