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"Sue Cooley"

The Last of Reed’s Fantastic Four Passes Away

Sue Cooley

Sue Cooley, a generous benefactor who greatly enriched Reed College both academically and artistically, died on February 18. She was one of the Fantastic Four, two dynamic couples—Ed and Sue Cooley, and John and Betty Gray—who stepped in to provide leadership and direction in the 1970s when Reed was struggling, and instead of just treading water, imagined something great.

Sue was born March 31, 1923, to Waldo and Marguerite Davison in Brazil, where her father worked for the YMCA. The family moved back to the U.S. when she was six, settling in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Sue attended Wilson College and graduated from Swarthmore College in 1944 with a degree in psychology. That same year, she married Edward Cooley, also from Swarthmore, whom she’d known since high school. At Harvard Business School Ed met John Gray, who suggested that he come to Portland and help with his chainsaw company, Omark Industries. The Cooleys moved to Portland in 1950 where they raised three children, Susan, Douglas, and Caroline. Ed started Precision Castparts, which originally provided cast parts for Omark. It grew into a giant casting company that provided parts for the aerospace industry.

Many of Sue’s ancestors were artisans who valued working with their hands, and she developed a lifelong passion for painting as a child. As a young woman, she worked for a ceramic artist, and later volunteered at the Ceramic Studio in Portland. That active interest in the arts and painting informed her service on the board of the Portland Art Museum, and on Bainbridge Island, where she helped fund the Bainbridge Artisans Resource Network (BARN). She also supported many artists in the Northwest and Maui.