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Rochella Cooper Papers

Identifier: 2019-017

The Rochella Cooper Papers contain files of her family history, resume, and her career as a piano and flute performance musician. In addition, files in this collection contain documents of Rochella’s work as a principal and music teacher at School of the Woods Montessori School (1962-1972), creation of the Greenway Plaza Children’s House (1972-1975), her career as a fiber artist (1972-1979), her tenure as president of the Houston Festival (1979-1986), and as a Founder and CEO of Women at the Helm sailing school (1987-1994), as well as designing and construction of four homes in the Houston area.

A digital surrogate for the VHS cassette tape "Women at the Helm (Master)" is available to view on the Special Collections Reading Room computer.

This collection is not yet fully processed. For questions about materials in this collection or to request access, contact curator Vince Lee at


  • 1962-2019


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is not yet processed. Contact the curator to request access.


5 Linear Feet

Biographical Information

Rochella Cooper was born on July 14, 1933, in South Africa. She studied flute and piano at the University of Cape Town and graduated with a Bachelor of Music in 1955. She subsequently performed all around the world. Her career highlights include stints as the principal flutist at the Haifa Symphony Orchestra in Israel and as the soloist at the Houston Symphony Orchestra. Along with her husband, neurologist Dr. Ben Cooper, she moved to Houston in 1961 where he would pursue his medical career, while she would leverage and transform her musical talents into other avenues.

Initially volunteering to teach music to children at the School of the Woods Montessori in exchange for her son's tuition there, she was approached to become the principal of the school after just three years there. During her tenure she expanded enrollment, hired and trained teachers, served as board chair, and grew the board of directors.

By 1972, Rochella was engrossed in what would be her second seven-year career. From weaving placemats to creating large sculptural fiber works, she would become a renowned fiber artist, selling her in-demand works to corporations and private collectors, going as far as having a solo exhibition at the Watson/deNagy Gallery. Between 1979 and 1986, Rochella worked as an administrator with the Houston Festival Foundation, having organized such celebrations as the sesquicentennial of the city of Houston and the 25th anniversary of NASA. Utilizing her extensive experience as a sailor, in 1987 Rochella began teaching women how to sail. After launching "Women at the Helm," she expanded the business to include leadership and team building activities.

Her other achievements include serving as the president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Texas Chapter, creating the Artful Garden Gallery for outdoor sculptures, forming, and serving on the board of directors of "Texans for Alternatives to Pesticides," designing and building several homes, winning a national pickleball championship, and countless other accomplishments.

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Repository Details

Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository

University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
MD Anderson Library
4333 University Drive
Houston TX 77204-2000 USA