For the many of us who may have missed chapel talk today, they missed a great speaker and alumni in Dr. Bill Cook ’66 giving his talk “Wabash in my Mind.” Here is a man who embodies what the mission statement of Wabash is for every student.
Why would Cook consider Wabash? He chose Wabash because of the experience he had with one of the trustees of the school he met. He found this person to be extremely intelligent, funny, and successful, and he thought that Wabash could do that for him. Cook recounted his growing freshman years as a Lambda Chi “pledge” (and yes, they do pledge!) One particular story he shared was the losing of his cap to a Crawfordsville pedestrian on a bike, and having to sneak back to the fraternity hoping no one would see it was missing.
But Wabash is not just about pledging, it is about educating. Cook thought for sure he knew what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to major in political science, get married one day and run for the Indiana legislature but that was before he came to Wabash. What Wabash did for Cook is like what it does for so many others: it changes you. Rather than devote his life to politics, Dr. Cook found he had a passion for history, particularly Medieval and Renaissance history, which is why he went on to graduate, earn his PhD, and go on to become a professor.
He has also learned to see beyond the color barrier, and idea that during the time he attended Wabash was no easy small issue. He recounted the great debate he had about whether to include a Chinese individual into their house. After speaking with a certain Wabash faculty member, Cook recounts he was more than prepared to have this important discussion of inclusion and he recounts this experience as one of the defining experience of his Wabash career. Although Dr. Cook is unmarried today, he has raised several children of many cultural backgrounds, including African American and Korean. It is a dynamic family to be sure, but to Cook, it’s the natural progression of what a life at Wabash can do for you.
What may be most striking about Dr. Cook may not be his great education in Religion, History, and the Renaissance, just to name a few. The most interesting thing about Dr. Cook is that after all these years, he still remembers the extraordinary individuals that defined Wabash. Individuals with buildings named after them, such as Trippet and Rogge as well as his fellow class mates who went on to become Rhode Scholars, professors, CEO’s, linguists, and so much more. It is Dr. Cook’s excitement, vibrancy, and joy that defined his presentation today. So if you have a moment, check out Cook’s chapel talk on Wabash’s YouTube channel to learn a little bit more about what makes Wabash so special. And if you have a moment and want to ask him personally, I am sure he would be glad to share a little bit of his experiences with you too.