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Leadership — Campus and Community Spirit

“Our school motto is ‘From Curiosity to Wisdom’ and I firmly believe it,” says Head of School Mike Maher.

This year, the private, nonsectarian, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade John Cooper School proudly rings in its 30th anniversary.

At the helm for the past 19 of those 30 years is Head of School Mike Maher, who has successfully worked with his faculty and staff to develop Cooper’s athletic, artistic and social programming to such a successful degree that it now rivals its own academic sphere.

The legacy of a rich extracurricular and social life Maher has spearheaded at Cooper can be seen not only in the new buildings and athletic fields, but also in the myriad, diverse programs offered to the school community and The Woodlands community at large. Such as:

The Empty Bowls Project – Organized by The National Art Honor Society chapter and Cooper Art Society students, the annual event is a fundraiser to fight hunger in The Woodlands. Students in all 3 divisions and faculty create bowls that people take home as part of the event admission. With the $8,000 raised at the 14th Annual Empty Bowls in February, this initiative has raised over $100,000 for the Interfaith Food Pantry over the past 10 years.

Habitat Project – Led by a steering committee of Upper School students, this annual outreach effort involves the entire school community to build a home through Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County. Cooper was honored in early May by Habitat for building its 20th consecutive Habitat home, affectionately called, “The House That John Built.”

Fine Arts Festival – A month-long celebration that showcases the work of visual and performing arts students from all three divisions with music and drama performances, gallery exhibits, faculty talks and dance demonstrations.

Signatures Author Series – A highly anticipated luncheon event that has been held for 14 years, featuring bestselling authors such as Barbara Bush, Mitch Albom, Jodi Picoult, Gillian Flynn and Kevin Kwan, to name a few. The proceeds of this event support the Fine Arts program at Cooper and a donation is also made to a local literacy organization.

International Celebrations – Cooper’s diverse student body participates in a celebration of the cultures of the world each spring. Parents and students create fascinating displays representing countries from around the world, share international cuisine, dress in national attire and present cultural performances.

Originally from Camden, New Jersey and on track to be a high school baseball coach and teacher, Maher switched to the administrative side of education as he pursued his master’s degree in Educational Administration at Catholic University. When an opportunity came available to join the administrative staff and coach baseball at Ransom Everglades School, a highly respected independent school in Florida, he and his family decided to make the move south. After 5 years in Miami, Maher headed Oak Hall School in Gainesville, Florida for 7 years before moving to Atlanta, Georgia where he headed The Marist School. Seven years later, he interviewed with Cooper, was offered and accepted the post as Head of School in 2000.

Under his almost 20 years of leadership, Cooper has expanded from a student body of 750 to the current 1,242 and added 9 new buildings and extensive athletic facilities to the campus. As the school celebrates its 30th year, Maher reflected back on the early days.

Current Head of School Mike Maher with Cooper’s first Head, Dr. Marina Ballantyne who returned to campus for the 30th anniversary celebration.

“Cooper’s history includes being part of oilman turned land developer George Mitchell’s initial vision for The Woodlands,” Maher said. “Early on, Mr. Mitchell set aside 43 acres and consulted with Mr. John Cooper, Kinkaid School’s legendary headmaster, about establishing a college preparatory independent school in his new master planned community. That vision became a reality when we opened in 1988 with 175 students in pre-k through grade seven, and we are proud to have grown with The Woodlands to where we are today. Our alumni now number 1,800 and we are pleased to be part of the history of this community.”

Speakers at the all-school John Cooper Day Assembly celebrating the school’s 30thanniversary included Head of Upper School Stephen Popp, Former Board Chair and Alumni Parent David Chenault, Class of 1996 Alum Catherine Johnson, Head of Middle School Charles Williams, Head of Lower School Teresa Robson and Head of School Mike Maher.

Always an avid baseball fan, Maher shows great pride when he talks about the senior baseball players who are signed to play college ball at Northwestern, Carleton College, Johns Hopkins, George Washington University and Baylor. He’s equally proud of the academic achievements of all his students.

“Our school motto is ‘From Curiosity to Wisdom’ and I firmly believe it,” says Maher. “It’s my job to continue to support enriching programming to boost our passionate young people studying here to expand the way they think about the world around them. It’s an honor to serve them.”

The Woodlander salutes Mike Maher and The John Cooper School. To learn more about The John Cooper School, please visit