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Coopwood: College Fraternities and the Value of Networking

As many of you know, I attended Ole Miss from 1980 to 1984 and loved every moment of it. I have said many times that while I’m delighted to have earned an English degree, it was the KA fraternity in which I received my real education and a skill I learned there that has taken me a long way is the value of networking.

Coopwood and his son Jordan on Bid Day. Jordan accepted a bid from Kappa Alpha, his father’s legacy.

The KA leadership back then pushed all us very hard to get involved, run for things, serve in every imaginable position that we could. They taught us that not only was it good to help others and the world in general that through that work we would also be helping ourselves because of the people we would meet and the opportunities we would come across. They were right and I have always maintained that if you attend any of our state’s universities, and if you join a fraternity or sorority, get involved and then stay in Mississippi after graduation, you’ll have friends all over the state and a network already in place you can use to launch your career.
I moved to Jackson after graduating from Ole Miss and had no shortage of friends the day I arrived. To begin my career, I purchased the assets of a bankrupt newspaper called the Jackson Journal of Business. I immediately renamed it Jackson Business Journal and in a matter of weeks of running the paper cash flow became a huge problem.
My good friend, Stephen Roberts, who was practicing law at the old firm, Watkins, Ludlam and Stennis, strongly suggested I get a small line of credit from a bank. At the time, I had never heard of a “line-of-credit”. Nevertheless, I walked into Trustmark National Bank in downtown Jackson and asked to speak with someone about a credit line. They directed me to one of Jackson’s longtime bankers, Sandy Levin. Sandy was a tough banker and a good one. He dipped his head and glancing at me over his glasses across his desk said, “Fill this out, but don’t get your hopes up.”
A few days later, he phoned me back, his mood completely changed and as happy as he could be he said, “I have your loan papers ready to go, come sign them!” I did and as I was signing them, I said, “Mr. Levin, thank you for pushing this through, but because I don’t have any credit, how were you able to get this line of credit approved?”
“One of our credit guys said he went to school with you at Ole Miss and said you were a ok, so that was good enough for me,” Sandy responded.
One of my fraternity brothers, John Lewis, was working at Trustmark and just happened to see my paperwork come through and he approved it with Sandy. That who-you-know situation, that one small act, got me a $10,000 line of credit and put me in business where I have been ever since some 30 years later now.
A few days ago, my middle son, Jordan, pledged KA at Ole Miss and that now makes three generations of KAs in our family. My oldest son, Thomas is a KA at Mississippi State. I have preached endlessly to these two boys all of their lives about the value of NETWORKING! So, during these next four years, Jordan better get going. Old brother, Thomas has a two year head start on him and has gotten the hang of networking.
The “who-you-know” deal in life often means everything and I don’t think most people realize this. I don’t care if you are a banker, doctor, or magazine and newspaper owner, don’t underestimate the value of networking. And, if you attend a university in the state and stay in Mississippi, the day you graduate you’ll be ahead in the game of life and business.
ScottCoopwoodPhoto-843x1024Scott Coopwood, a seventh generation Deltan, lives in Cleveland, Mississippi, with his wife Cindy and their three children. Scott is the publisher and owner of Delta Magazine, one of the South’s leading lifestyle publications, the Delta Business Journal, the first business publication in the Mississippi Delta; and Cleveland’s weekly newspaper, The Cleveland Current

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