Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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Scholarship endowment memorializes OHIO alumnus

When Iris Cooper lost not only her fiancé, but her friend and business partner, she did what she thought her partner would want her to do: she began thinking of how a tragedy could be turned into a way to inspire others.

Iris Cooper founded the William "Pablo" Davis Memorial Scholarship in honor of her late fiancé, William "Pablo" Davis, who graduated in 1988 with a bachelor's in business administration.  

Davis was a successful entrepreneur who believed strongly in the value of education and the idea that business is essential for the success of African-Americans. With funds raised and provided by Cooper and Lisa Caristan, Davis' daughter, the scholarship will help pay tuition costs for deserving African-American students pursuing careers in business at Ohio University.

"My father was a life-longer learner. He knew that education was the key to economic security, a key that no one could take from you. He was an astute, well-rounded businessman, and he enjoyed learning about all kind of topics. He encouraged me and everyone around him to persevere through the toughest obstacles to get your degree," said Caristan, an Ohio State University business graduate.

Cooper said she believes that minority-based scholarship needs are growing.

"Pablo recognized the need for more funding to allow minority students to attend college and this scholarship is intended to help fill that void at OU," Cooper explained.

Cooper was able to pursue a college education only because of scholarship funding, and she said she would be unable to attend college today in the current scholarship climate.

"That is why we are setting up this scholarship for African-American students with good academic backgrounds and financial need," she says.

Davis got his start in music and business as a promoter of college concerts while at OHIO. He created a business bringing musicians to campuses under the name, "Pablo and Associates." Pablo continued to expand his business after graduation, and enjoyed a career of many firsts. He was the first African-American to manage entertainment for the Ohio State Fair and the first African-American to produce a live concert on Black Entertainment Television (BET), which showcased Midnight Star, one of the many groups he managed. Davis also worked with artists Baby Face, The Deale and Cameo. After retiring from the music industry in the 1990s, Davis consulted for small business owners and operated real estate and retail businesses. Davis then served as a business development specialist at the U.S. Small Business Administration. While there, Davis created the Small Business Development Series, a series of annual business literacy seminars for minority entrepreneurs for the Columbus and Dayton-area Ohio Urban Leagues.

Cooper earned an MBA from Indiana University with funding she received from that university's Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellowship. In addition to owning Just Ask Iris, a business-consulting firm, she is a professor at Columbus State Community College and also teaches in the Franklin University MBA program. She is currently enrolled at Walden University where she is pursuing a doctorate in business.

"Education is the platform for success in the world," Cooper said. "It is an asset that cannot be taken away, but must be enhanced each day to remain competitive. Pablo understood that and was a life-long learner in many disciplines."

Cooper said Ohio University students should remember Davis as a role model for his personal achievements and for what he gave back to others as a mentor.  

"Pablo loved life and people," she said. "He was unique in that he had the sensitivity of a personal counselor, but was driven to success like an entrepreneur. He was my best friend, business partner and confidante, and is missed each and every day."