Caitlin "Cait" Shields '11 December 21, 2017 5:08 PM updated: January 8, 2018 9:38 AM
The Aggie Network is rallying around a family who lost their 8-year-old son this week.
Mother Jen Strong ’01 and stepfather Robert Strong, Jr., both associate professors in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications, and father Michael Williams ’00 and stepmother Jennifer Williams lost their son Cooper Williams, 8, Wednesday after a wreck outside of Glen Rose.
The Tuesday crash also claimed the life of Michael’s mother, Freda Williams, and his 7-year-old nephew Parker, son of Michael’s sister Shayla and her husband Kaleb Pool. Cooper’s sister, Brenna, 13, their 11-year-old cousin Emma Pool, and Michael’s father, James Dean Williams, were also in the crash and were taken to hospitals for treatment.
Jen Strong leads the Dr. Joe D. Townsend ’67 ALEC Leadership Fellows program, a program designed to shape future leaders, and when several former students and fellows heard about the tragedy, they came together to support the family.
“A lot of us are really close with both Dr. Strongs and have taken as many classes as we can with them,” said Randy Hightower ’17 who helped organize the effort. “It’s more like a family than a student-teacher relationship, so we felt the need to help where we could.
“Nothing we can do can give back all the support she’s given all of her students,” he said of Jen.
The group collected enough to pay for a burial plot for Cooper at the Aggie Field of Honor.
Jen Strong said the family has gotten support from all sides. “Michael and I are overwhelmed by the love and support of our classmates (Michael is '00 and '04 and I am '02 and '03), my former Agricultural Leadership Development and University Studies Leadership students and our whole Aggie community, including the Aggie nurses here at Cook (Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth),” she said of where Brenna and Emma were taken for treatment. “Just when we think of something we need or something we need to do for Cooper or Brenna, it has already been taken care of. Without this support, we could not make it through this season of our lives. This is the Aggie Network at its finest. We are so proud and humbled to be a part of such an amazing Aggie family."
Services for Cooper include visitation from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Hiller Funeral Home in College Station and a funeral at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Franklin Church of Christ in Franklin, where Matt Morton and Blan Chrane will officiate. Graveside services at the Aggie Field of Honor will immediately follow.
Robert Strong said his stepson's dream was to be a student at Texas A&M: “He was already looking at what classes he would take and was interested in joining the Corps. He loved Aggie sports and most of the time wore Aggie clothes. Since he will not get to be a member of the fightin' Texas Aggie Class of 2031, his family wanted his final resting place to overlook Kyle Field in the Aggie Field of Honor. He would be so proud.”