The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Meyer Society Lecture Series: Margaret Spellings looks to long-range planning as the key to success in Texas

Written by
Amber Freeland
Posted in

Thursday, May 16, 2019

It was a lovely spring night as people from all over Dallas gathered for the second annual Meyer Society Lecture Series by The Cooper Institute sponsored by WestwoodThis year’s event featured Margaret Spellings, a renowned education thought leader and public policy expert who notably spearheaded the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) as the secretary of education under President George W. Bush.

Most recently, Spellings served as the president of the University of North Carolina System before leaving to help lead the efforts at Texas 2036 - a nonprofit focused on long-range, data-based planning to build a better Texas by the bicentennial year.

Dr. Laura DeFina, CEO and Chief Science Officer of The Cooper Institute, kicked off the lecture in Bohannon Hall with a short discussion of the research and mission of the Institute. She then introduced Amy Meyer Barrentine, the daughter of the late Fred Meyer and honorary chair for the event. Barrentine spoke about the work of her father and his passion for fitness and research. Meyer was one of the founding trustees of The Cooper Institute and served as the first CEO.

Pictured Above: Laura F. DeFina, margaret Spellings, Milley Cooper, Kenneth H. Cooper, Roger Staubach, Margo Keyes, Orville C. Rogers

Meyer’s planned gift of $1 million served as the foundation for the Meyer Society Planned Giving program, inspiring others to build our endowment into a sustaining legacy of life-changing research and education. Meyer Society members demonstrate their commitment by including The Cooper Institute in their estate planning.       

Meyer Society Planned Giving Members:

  • Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH
  • Thomas and Shelly Codd
  • Joseph and Laura F. DeFina, MD
  • Elmer L. Doty
  • Leroy Howard
  • Amy Johnson
  • Claire Kinzy
  • Trey Lindsey
  • Tedd Mitchell, MD
  • Orville C. Rogers
  • Roger Staubach
  • Beth B. Wright, PhD
  • Honorary Chair: Amy Meyer Barrentine

“Dad always gave a sizeable portion of his income to the causes he believed in and The Cooper Institute was primary in his giving selections,” said Amy Meyer Barrentine, Meyer’s daughter. “He wanted our country to improve childhood fitness levels and reduce the financial and physical burden of diabetes, heart disease and age-related decline.”

Retired Ambassador Jeanne L. Phillips, senior vice president of corporate engagement and international relations for Hunt Consolidated, Inc., introduced Spellings and moderated a Q&A session following her presentation. Phillips also serves on the board of trustees for The Cooper Institute.

Featured speaker Margaret Spellings gave a rousing presentation on the future of education in Texas and the role fitness plays in building a healthy generation of students. She reminded us that the students of today are the workforce of tomorrow. Research from The Cooper Institute shows that students who are more fit are healthier overall, miss fewer days of school, and have higher scores on state reading and math tests.

"It comes down to something The Cooper Institute knows well - Are you willing to invest now for benefits that will come years down the road?" said Spellings in her address. "What steps do we need to take now to have the greatest impact in the years to come?"

Pictured Above: Jeanne L. Phillips and Margaret Spellings

Building healthy habits early on also helps students learn how to maintain good health into adulthood. Another key concern mentioned by Spellings is the daunting statistic that nearly 75% of young adults are not fit for military service largely due to health and weight issues - a problem that puts our state and our country at risk.

"Texans are unique. We've long been able to make common sense decisions, create common-sense policies and get out of our own way," said Spellings. "We've been in control of our future and we've taken a lot of pride in that fact." 

The Meyer Society Lecture Series exists to increase high-level engagement and education through dynamic, speaker-driven events. The inaugural event featured William H. McRaven, former Chancellor of the University of Texas and retired Navy admiral, sharing his powerful story of the impact of fitness in his life.

To learn more about Meyer Society membership or future events, please contact Amy Johnson at or 214.543.6533.