Hospital CEO honored with Order of the Long Leaf Pine

Our friends at the Cherokee One Feather did an exceptional job reporting on the surprise presentation that was made during the 12th Annual Cherokee Indian Hospital Foundation Gala when Senator Kevin Corbin awarded Hospital CEO Casey Cooper with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine on behalf of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

Senator Corbin submitted Mr. Cooper for consideration to the Governor’s office this Spring, in recognition of Mr. Cooper’s more than three decades of service in the health care field. To be considered for the award, individuals need more than just a nomination from a member of the General Assembly, they also need to receive at least three supporting nominations from the communities they serve. Mr. Cooper received more than needed, receiving nominations from collogues such as Principal Chief of the Easter Band of the Cherokee Indians Richard Sneed, CEO of Dogwood Health Trust Dr. Susan Mims, Chancellor of WCU Kelli Brown, and Chair of Care4Carolina, Peg O’Connell. Each person who submitted a nomination on behalf of Mr. Cooper highlighted different aspects of his 30+ career that justified their nominations, showcasing the monumental impact Mr. Cooper has had not only on the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, but on North Carolina as a whole.

Mr. Cooper found his calling of caring for others in while just in High School, something his former teacher, Frances Hess, who attended the Gala to help honor Mr. Cooper, can attest to. He then began his career in 1993 after receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from Gardner-Webb University and an MBA from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Mr. Cooper started in healthcare working as a Primary Care Nurse, then a community Health Nurse, then a Nurse Educator, then as a Nursing Manager before going on to serve as the Health Director of the EBCI from 1999 to 2004, a position he left to become the CEO of the Cherokee Indian Hospital.

He has helped shape public health policy with a focus on chronic disease prevention and arguably most notable — led a community wide initiative to assume the management responsibilities of the Cherokee Indian Hospital from the Indian Health Services through an Indian Self-Determination Agreement.

“His impact on the health and well-being of North Carolina deserves all the recognition in the world,” said Senator Kevin Corbin. “Well, I don’t have the power to give Casey Cooper the global recognition he deserves, but I do have the ability to present him with the most prestigious honor in North Carolina. So please join me in raising a glass to undoubtedly the brightest shining star among us as I have the honor of presenting Mr. Casey Cooper with North Carolina’s Highest Honor—The Order of the Longleaf Pine.”

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is one of the most prestigious and esteemed honors awarded by the state of North Carolina, United States. Established in 1963, it recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the state and have demonstrated a lifetime of exemplary service, dedication, and outstanding achievements.

The name “Long Leaf Pine” is derived from the official tree of North Carolina, the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), which is native to the southeastern United States and holds historical significance in the region. The tree symbolizes resilience, strength, and longevity, making it a fitting representation of the remarkable individuals who receive this distinguished honor.

The pine tree holds profound cultural significance for the Cherokee people, deeply woven into their traditions, beliefs, and way of life. As told in the Cherokee Myth, The Origin of the Pleiades and the Pine, the Cherokee view the pine tree as a connection to their ancestors and the spirits of the natural world and say that the pine has the same nature as the stars and shines with the same light, making it even more fitting for Mr. Cooper to receive the Order of the Long Leaf Pine during a celebration of the stars.

Recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine come from diverse fields, including politics, business, academia, arts and culture, philanthropy, and community service. They have all left a profound impact on the state through their contributions, leadership, and commitment to bettering the lives of its citizens. Mr. Cooper joins the list of award winners that includes the likes of Maya Angelou, Michael Jordan, Reverend Billy Graham, Dr. William Friday, James Taylor, and so many more.

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine has been bestowed upon numerous other exceptional individuals, each leaving a lasting legacy in North Carolina and beyond. This prestigious honor serves as a testament to their dedication and the positive impact they have made on the state and its people.