Laura Sparks

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President, The Cooper Union
New York, NY

Laura Sparks is the 13th president of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. A leader in education, philanthropy and community-focused economic development, Laura assumed the role in January 2017 as the first woman to serve as president of The Cooper Union. At Cooper, she is focused on improving the school’s financial outlook, building collaborative efforts across the community, ensuring that the school continues to provide students with an outstanding educational experience, and positioning the school for continued excellence in the decades ahead. Under Laura’s leadership, Cooper is now pursuing a comprehensive plan to achieve full-tuition scholarships for all students, returning Cooper to its roots of providing a free education for students of extraordinarily high potential from all walks of life. 

Previously, she served as executive director of the William Penn Foundation, a $2 billion private foundation dedicated to improving the quality of the Philadelphia area. Laura joined the Foundation after several years’ work in community development finance, as senior vice president for financial services at Opportunity Finance Network—a national nonprofit serving local Community Development Financial Institutions across the country—and the director of development finance initiatives for Citi Community Development and Citi Foundation.

Laura has served on a variety of boards and advisory committees, including the board of Aeris, a nonprofit information service for community investors, and the Credit Committee and the Capital Formation Committee for Living Cities. As a member of the Governor’s Advisory Board for Community Development, she has advised Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on issues pertaining to public safety, crime, urban development, revitalization, and disaster preparedness.

Laura earned her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, her M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and her B.A. in philosophy from Wellesley College. Laura is an avid runner and loves to cook, but what she loves to do most is spend time with her husband and two children.