||As his senior year at Mayfield High School wound down, Joel Cook faced a dilemma. He was a good student and knew he wanted to go to college, but he didn’t know where. There was, however, a lot of buzz about a new college coming to downtown.
The buzz soon turned to reality and Cook enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®) Sept. 19, 1963, with more than 3,000 other eager new students. “It was a tremendously exciting time,” said Cook. “The community college idea was new coming in from California. We had a college president, Dr. (Charles) Chapman, coming in from that state to get us going. You could feel it in the air that this was going to be something great.”
|Each day, Cook rode the old Redifer Bus Co. line, a private system, down Mayfield Road to East 14th Street and Sumner Avenue. “Classes were held in the building where John D. Rockefeller went to school,” said Cook. “It was built in 1863, giving us the old collegiate feel. We were a new school, but it felt right and well-seasoned.”
Cook intended to go on for a bachelor’s degree so his course load reflected that intent. He had the usual requirements but added French and Russian language study. “The teachers were fantastic,” said Cook. “They were interesting people interested in you. I loved going to class.”
With the urging of his speech teacher, Joseph Budin, whom Cooked called an excellent teacher and debate coach, he joined the debate team and spent hours in the college library researching his topic. “Mr. McGinty was the librarian and he was always eager to help,” said Cook. “That building now houses law offices and the old college library is still in use as a law library.” Cook also wrote for the college paper, then called The Commuter.
In June 1965, Joel Cook was the eighth person ever to receive a degree from Tri-C, an Associate of Arts in literature and language. Cook continued his education at Kent State University, graduating with a bachelor’s in secondary education (history) with a teaching minor in French.
After three years of teaching high school, Cook moved from Greater Cleveland to Chicago and pursued his lifelong interest in broadcasting. He studied at the Omega Institute, where he earned a first-class FCC license, marking the start of his radio career. From there, he worked as an engineer and broadcaster in Indiana and West Virginia before returning to the Cleveland area .
Back home Cook worked for Ohio Bell, which later became Ameritech. He now works for Progressive Insurance. In his spare time Cook is involved with Toastmasters International and in good weather can be seen cruising around in his lovingly restored 1959 Morris Minor.
When asked about those early days of Tri-C, Cook can wax eloquent. “The College was a product of the milieu of the ‘60s when optimism and innovation meant you could do anything,” said Cook. “Tri-C was of inestimable value in my finding myself and seeing me through a rather chaotic period. It made all the difference in who and what I am. I am very thankful.”