Spotlight: Ron Cooper

Ben Cooper has lived in Grinnell his entire life and has worked at the College for 37 years.  Photo by Sydney Hamamoto

Ron Cooper has lived in Grinnell his entire life and has worked at the College for 37 years.
Photo by Sydney Hamamoto

Whether he is preparing uniforms for the Pioneers or grabbing sporting gear for students to check out, Ron Cooper is always a lively presence in The Cage. The S&B’s Sam Curry ’16 sat down with Cooper to discuss his time at Grinnell and his collection of vinyl records, which he claims is the largest in Iowa.   

How long have you worked at Grinnell?

I started my 37th year on Sept. 4. [this year]. I saw them build the building I’d worked in as a child, I worked there for thirty years [and] I watched them tear it down.

What is your favorite sport?

I like football the best but I follow all sports. I played football back in the day [for Grinnell High School], that’s how I got the job … I was an offensive tackle and a defensive end.

Tell me a bit about your music collection.

It’s probably one of the biggest [music collections] in the Midwest. It’s pretty eclectic, you name it, I’ve got it. The blues is my favorite [but] I like it all … I like reggae, I like jam bands. I saw the [Grateful Dead] thirty-seven [times] … I didn’t follow them, I just saw them every summer … I’ve got 8-track tapes, I’ve got 45s, most of its vinyls and LPs and I probably have 25,000 to 30,000 vinyl LPs, so about four rooms. I probably have more pieces in my music collection than the University of Iowa. That’s not a joke because when they had the flood, they said they had to move 54,000 pieces out of the museum and I had to laugh because I had 30,000 vinyls.

Is most of your music from a particular era?

I’m eclectic. I like everything. I’ve got kids’ records, I’ve got comedy records, I’ve got blues, I’ve got reggae … you name a record I’ve probably got it. I started collecting when I was a kid … back in the 80s when people were getting rid of their records, they just gave them to me, because they were stupid. They were giving something away that was valuable, and I knew it was going to get more valuable.

What are some of your favorite albums that you have?

The autographed ones. I’ve got a lot of them: Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, a lot of blues guys, Johnny Lee Hooker.

Have you listened to everything in your collection?

Yes. I make sure I listen to it once before it gets filed … that’s what I was doing over the weekend, I had a whole bunch of vinyl I had to listen [to]. I’ve even got a machine that cleans them off, costs about a $1,000. It’s the same kind the Smithsonian uses, so it’s not cheap.

How long do you plan on working at Grinnell?

I’m eligible to retire right now, when I turned 55 I reached eligibility, so I’m on the rule of fifteen minutes, I can be out of here in fifteen minutes … so they better be nice to me.