East Tennessee State University is mourning the loss of a woman who became one of their most famous graduates.
Bess Brown Cooper died Tuesday at the age of 116 in Georgia. Last February the Sullivan County native was named the oldest person in the world.
"At 116 years, 100 days, she helped us over the last several years sharing her journey with us as one of the world's oldest persons," said Bob Plummer, president of the ETSU Alumni Association.
Cooper graduated in 1916 from East Tennessee Normal School, which is now East Tennessee State University. Back then the school's mission was to train teachers, and that's what Cooper became. She taught in Sullivan County and eventually Georgia.
But over the decades she never forgot her old school. She named her first child after the school's first president.
Cooper also kept a piece of the school with her everyday. "Miss Bess had a class ring from East Tennessee Normal School that she wore everyday," Plummer told us.
The university gave Cooper a new ring during its centennial celebration last year as a tribute to her part in the school's legacy.
Cooper traveled back to the region many times throughout her life and would often ask to visit campus. "Even in the last few years Miss Bess was not able to travel but her family traveled to some of the schools she taught at in Sullivan County," says Plummer.
Cooper had been living in a nursing home in Monroe, GA for the past several years. ETSU officials say she died from complications of a stomach virus.