The Cooper Institute® Appoints Don Disney as FITNESSGRAM® National Program Director

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Top Health Educator to Lead FITNESSGRAM in More Than 86,000 Schools Nationwide and 14 Countries

The Cooper Institute® announced today Don Disney, MS, MA, will serve as the national program director of FITNESSGRAM®, a fitness assessment and reporting program for youth, developed by The Cooper Institute. Disney will begin his new role on August 1, leaving his position as the director of health and wellness for the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD), in El Paso, Texas.

“Disney is widely recognized for his outstanding work and impressive results to improve the health of El Paso ISD students. I fully expect he will build upon those remarkable efforts at The Cooper Institute as he leads the national and international FITNESSGRAM program,” said “Father of Aerobics” Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, founder and chairman of the board of trustees at The Cooper Institute. “Disney will make a tremendous impact expanding the program's success and igniting healthy changes among students, parents and communities worldwide.”

In his new role, Disney will direct all aspects of the FITNESSGRAM program, which serves as the statewide physical fitness assessment tool in Texas public schools, and more than 86,000 schools nationwide, plus 14 countries. FITNESSGRAM guides efforts to improve the health of children by measuring overall fitness through six tests looking at aerobic capacity, body composition, muscular endurance, strength and flexibility.

“I am excited about this opportunity to make a difference in our children’s health,” said Disney. “It is an honor to be a part of The Cooper Institute and work with such a talented and dedicated team. I am fully committed and look forward to new challenges.”

During his tenure with the EPISD, Disney secured funding for the state mandated coordinated school health program, developed an infrastructure for leadership and accountability, and successfully created an evidenced-based and data-driven program. Under his leadership, the EPISD has created an online high-tech quality physical education program and secured over nine million dollars in various grants to support wellness and physical education initiatives for the district. Disney was honored by Governor Rick Perry in 2010 for having the top School Health Advisory Council in the state of Texas.

“Today is a great day that marks the beginning of a new chapter for FITNESSGRAM and The Cooper Institute," said Susan Campbell, PhD, executive vice president of The Cooper Institute. “Disney possesses tremendous leadership skills and vision for the continued success of our youth initiatives. We are confident he will take FITNESSGRAM to the next level nationally and internationally.”

In related FITNESSGRAM news, Charles Sterling, EdD, “Father of FITNESSGRAM” and chairman of Youth Initiatives at The Cooper Institute, announced his retirement after more than 30 years with the organization. Sterling founded the FITNESSGRAM program, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2012.

“Sterling’s contributions to Cooper Aerobics are immense and enduring. More than thirty years ago he recognized the need for measuring physical fitness and founded a program that has been tremendous at assessing children’s fitness worldwide,” said Dr. Cooper. “We greatly appreciate the legacy he leaves with us and know that his contributions will shape The Cooper Institute far beyond his retirement.”

About The Cooper Institute
Established in 1970 by Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, The Cooper Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated worldwide to preventive medicine research and education. Dr. Cooper is credited with sparking today’s fitness movement. Each year The Cooper Institute develops engaged learners in fitness and health with its courses and nationally accredited Personal Trainer Certification exam. The Cooper Institute offers web-based tools for schools to track and report on youth fitness and nutrition: FITNESSGRAM® and NutriGram®. Visit


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Christine Buzzetta
Cooper Aerobics
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