Reverend Albert P. Koppes, O.Carm., spent his 43-year career at LMU in many roles and his tenure, from 1975 to 2018, accompanied the most expansive period of growth in the university’s history. He was at the center of it all.
Father Koppes served LMU as an assistant professor of education and assistant director of secondary education; academic vice president; inaugural dean of the School of Education; interim director of Campus Ministry; and associate chancellor. In each of those positions he applied his fierce intellect, his loving heart, his generous spirit, and his sharp wit to make our university the best it could be.
His knowledgeable hand is seen in the myriad high-quality professors he hired; his keen sense of education is instilled in the bold programs he developed; his devotion to our Catholic mission is seen in the success of PLACE Corps — which he often called his signature accomplishment. During Father Koppes’ tenure as dean, the School of Education launched the first LMU research doctorate, the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership for Social Justice. Six LMU presidents benefited from his wise and thoughtful counsel.
Among the scores of committees on which Father Koppes served are the LMU Heritage Association of Retired Faculty and Staff, organized to maintain connections to those who have retired and still love LMU, and the Faculty Hall of Fame, which honors those educators who have left a lasting impact on LMU.
Father Koppes was born in Prescott, Arizona and was raised in the Chicago area. He joined the Order of the Carmelites in 1947, when he was 14 years old, and was ordained in 1959. Father Koppes came to Southern California in 1960, taking his first assignment at Crespi Carmelite High School in Encino. He served as a mathematics, science, Latin, and religion instructor from 1960; he then became principal, from 1966-71. Many of the Crespi students of those years remained Father Koppes’ lifelong friends.
Father Koppes began his tenure at LMU in 1975, where he supported the secondary education program, supervised student teachers, and taught math/science methods and educational psychology. In the spring of 1981, he was elected chair of the Education Department, received tenure, and was promoted to associate professor. In 1982, he was appointed acting academic vice president, and the following year, after a national search, he was appointed academic vice president. He held that position until 1990, when he took a year sabbatical to return to the Department of Education as a faculty member and chair.
When the department formally became a school in 1992, he served as the first director, and then became SOE’s first dean in 2000. During his tenure, the SOE grew tremendously in student enrollment — from 350 to 850 graduate students — and faculty and staff grew as well. Father Koppes served on and chaired numerous state accreditation visits and initiated the SOE’s successful accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) in 1998. In 2001, he was invited to become a Board of Examiners (BOE) member of NCATE and participated in several NCATE reviews of universities nationally. During his leadership, SOE also created a partnership with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to establish the PLACE Corps program to prepare teachers for inner city Catholic schools. He also established a partnership with Teach For America, and in the summer of 2004, SOE successfully initiated the first research doctorate at LMU — the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership for Social Justice.
In 2004, Robert Lawton, S.J., LMU’s president at the time, asked Father Koppes to return as acting academic vice president a second time while a national search was conducted. In 2005, he went into semi-retirement as dean emeritus and associate chancellor until his full retirement.
Father Koppes earned his doctorate in education in 1973 at USC, his master’s degree in educational administration at the University of Notre Dame, and his bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and mathematics at St. Bonaventure University in western New York. Before joining LMU in 1975, Father Koppes taught classes at California State University, Northridge and Pepperdine University. He was the first Catholic priest hired at Pepperdine.