Joe Cook may not be an Anderson University graduate, but he understands the university’s community impact and significance.

“What they are doing there is amazing,” said Cook, 82, who was named the 2012 William P. Riethmiller Partnership Award recipient during AU’s annual appreciation dinner Saturday. “It is such a blessing what has happened there over the years that I feel like it is a good place to support in whatever way we can.”

AU president James Edwards said Cook is an “exemplar of community trusteeship and leadership.”

“He is a born encourager and walked with AU in friendship and support,” Edwards said. “He has helped us shape some very generous opportunities, linking us with folks who also helped support Anderson University.”

Edwards, who was a student when he met Cook, said he considers Cook a great friend.

Cook said it was an “overwhelming honor” to receive the award, something he would treasure.

In addition to honoring Cook, the President’s 2012 annual appreciation dinner for fellows and sponsors was an opportunity for Edwards to thank those who have given to the university over the year.

“Anderson University is in the midst of some really great times,” he said, pointing out that AU is striving to carrying out a mission that comes from a “grand history in higher education and strong faith.”

AU has a “rich academic heritage” that it is “fairly quiet about,” Edwards said. But some of its less-renowned elements are becoming better known, including its nursing program, the only one in the state last year to have 100 percent of its students pass the National Council Licensure Examination.

Edwards also spoke of AU’s pre-med program, which has a med-school acceptance rate of nearly 100 percent for graduates.

Pre-med student Paul Scheidler, of Greentown, received the Madison County Medical Society 2012 Scholarship Award during Saturday’s dinner.

Other highlight’s from the past year at AU include new facilities, chiefly the York Performance Hall — “one more element that sets us apart from other small colleges in the Midwest,” Edwards said.

“When young people decide to come to a small comprehensive university with 2,500 students, they don’t expect these kinds of exceptional resources,” he said.

Edwards spoke of more to come for AU, including the beginning of an engineering program.

“We are aware we are living in an extremely competitive environment in higher education,” Edwards said. “I think we have rare resources here to put us right in the mix. ... We have the best donors in Anderson.”

There were more than 13,000 contributors to the recently concluded capital campaign, which raised $13.8 million.

Cook said he is happy to be included in that number.

“I’ve always felt like it was a pleasure to serve and feel like if we have to fortitude to do that, then you should,” he said. “It is a rewarding thing to do.”

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