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February 15, 2014

Jim Bailey: Ken Cook provided a link to columnist’s academic past

When I reported for my first class in September 1957 at then-Anderson College, I was greeted by a chemistry professor who also was teaching his first class at the school.

Dr. Ken Cook, fresh from earning his doctorate, had just accepted a position at which he would remain for the balance of his career. Cook, 85, died Jan. 21 after 22 years of retirement. He had remained active at Park Place Church of God, volunteering several years in the food pantry.

Learning chemistry under Dr. Cook was easily facilitated by his teaching style. He made his presentations slowly and completely as he wrote them out on the board, making note-taking a snap. Unfortunately, making an A in the class was not quite that easy, since professors of that time were expected to grade on a curve and my class included a number of aspiring medical students.

His passing leaves only a handful of my former instructors, not surprising given the 50-plus years since my 1962 graduation. I know of only four, including graduate assistants, who are still living: Bill Hazelbauer, the AC band director for three years; Dale Bengtson, band and choral music director; Gordon Finlay, who taught my Spanish class for one semester; and Bill McDonald, a graduate assistant in my freshman world history class.

Bengtson took over the band when Hazelbauer left and also directed what would become the men’s chorus. He taught at AC/AU his entire career, retiring as dean of the school of music, art and design.

A few members of the AC administrative staff of that time also remain, headed by Robert Nicholson. He was associate dean at the time I arrived, becoming academic dean the following year on the death of Russell Olt. He would eventually become the first president of the institution as a university.

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