In Appreciation of Stephan Cook

Akela Almada (cont.)

“ . . . That was super groundbreaking to me. He was a professor who cared what the students’ thoughts and opinions on the books were, more than just what the books said or what the test was going to be about. I’ve never met anyone who has cared more about students than him. A few weeks into classes, he emailed me confronting me about how I was handling everything. Which was terribly. And he really cared about how I was doing. I would have never even gotten a diploma if not for his kindness and concern about me that semester. I truly believe that.

He was so incredibly smart, funny, loving, and really pushed students to respond to what they were learning/reading, to develop their own thoughts, opinions, and analysis of the texts. I really regret not being able to take another class with him. Even though I never really kept in touch, he is someone I will never in my life forget. Ever. I never truly told him how highly I regard him.”


Group of girls

Katherine Landis (’15)

“In Modern Grammar and Advanced Composition last semester, we had a class of all girls. We would always be going back and forth with Dr. Cook, giving him a hard time and making jokes. We wrote a personal familiar essay. Dori Lansbach wrote an essay about a significant person in her life passing away and how she always wears pearls to honor him because he wrote a book in which he described women as pearls. Because of Dori's essay, Dr. Cook brought his wife to class and gave her a beautiful pearl necklace and explained the meaning and the story to her.

Then at the end of the semester, we girls decided we wanted to do something special for Dr. Cook. We decided to take a class picture with him and frame it. Then we decided to write a story where we each contributed a sentence and wrote it around the frame. Then we gave it to him on the last day of class and it was a very touching moment.”


Kat Wozniak (’12)

“I was a student in Dr. Cook's Jewish-American Literature class my sophomore year at Westmont. Throughout the course, it became more and more obvious he was trying to find a tangible way for his students to grasp some Jewish traditions and cultural concepts that were found in the books. One day I was visiting in his office, asking questions about an assignment we had due within the next few weeks. Dr. Cook must have been able to tell I'd been having a bad day because he offered to play some Jewish music for me off his computer. The energetic beat and beautiful trampling rhythm that filled the room had me laughing within seconds. I begged him to play some in class, but he refused; he didn't wish to distract the other students.

Several hours later, the students gathered for class, prepared for another afternoon deciphering Yiddish vocabulary. Halfway through his lecture, Dr. Cook stopped mid-sentence, winked at me, and asked "Does anybody have a laptop?" Needless to say, the rest of class was spent trying to guess which song would be appropriate in which cultural setting, which instruments were used to produce different sounds, etc. Dr. Cook even managed to dance a little bit in his seat. I still don't remember what book we were reading at the time, or what certain Yiddish terms translate to. However, I do remember thinking that this was a teacher who would try almost anything to see his students happy.”