March 2006


Part Of Our Arizona Heritage

Cook College's first class

Cook College (1911-2006) Celebrates 95th Anniversary

Photo: COOK'S FIRST -- Ninety-five years ago, these students comprised the "First Nine" at Cook Christian Training School (now Cook College & Theological School).

Shown from upper left to right are Narcisse Porter, Calvin Emerson, Edward Jackson, William Peters, Crouse Perkins, and Horace Williams. From left to right on the first row are Joshua Cachora, James Fulton, Dr. George Logie, the school’s superintendent, and Joseph Wellington.

What do you give a school for its 95th Anniversary? For Cook College & Theological School (CCTS), in Tempe, Ariz., the answer is a yearlong celebration of students past and present.

For nearly a century, it has been the students — who have represented more than 90 different Indian tribes from throughout the United States and Canada, as well as native people from other countries — who have been the purpose for this inter-tribal and multi-denominational college — the only one of its kind.

One former student, who later became president of CCTS, is Dr. Cecil Corbett, a member of the Nez Perce tribe. In a ceremony to honor this alum (’54) on Jan.12, the Cook College auditorium was renamed "The Cecil Corbett Center."

It was during Corbett’s 25-year presidency (1967-1992), that the college raised funds to build a facility large enough for gatherings of Native Americans from across the continent. Corbett designed the floor plan for the auditorium, taking care to dedicate space for a museum, where the Indian artifacts, artwork, and crafts that had been donated to the college through the years could be exhibited and preserved.

The newly named Cecil Corbett Center will undergo renovation to enlarge that museum space, to accommodate the additional artifacts the college has received in the past 35 years and the impressive CCTS archival collection; the founder’s diary from the 1800s will be housed in the museum as well. Scholars of history (19th and 20th

Century Indians schools and churches) will now have easier access to these Cook College treasures.

The 95th Anniversary celebrations of Cook College will continue into the spring, when current students will hold a choir fest and revival, March 16-17. Then, on April 8, the Cook College Auxiliary will hold its annual tea and raffle, with a commemorative salute to Mrs. Kitty Brown, who founded the auxiliary to benefit CCTS students, 40 years ago.

And, on April 22, Cook College students and faculty will sponsor an intergenerational Vacation Bible School

On May 12, the College will honor the first five students to graduate with an Associate of Arts degree from the University of Dubuque Programs at Cook College. The partnership agreement between CCTS and the University of Dubuque (UD) was finalized this past spring, although Cook College has been a feeder school to UD for decades.

October is the official anniversary month for Cook College: It was Oct. 11, 1911 when Rev. Charles Cook founded the school. CCTS students will celebrate by building a float for the annual Native American Recognition Days (NARD) parade, as they have for the past several years (taking first place in the Schools/Colleges division in 2005).

Other anniversary celebrations will be announced throughout the year, but the grand finale is planned for Dec. 3, when Cook College’s Annual Native American Festival & Market will bring some 40 vendors to campus, offering original native artwork, music, dances, and food.

The legend of the founder of CCTS began in 1855 when Karl Koch immigrated to America from Germany. Koch served in the Civil War, where his colleagues gave him the name, "Charles Cook."

After the war, Cook set out for Arizona Territory where he began studying the unwritten Pima language and taught tribal members to read and write in English. Cook also helped the Pima people adapt their farming techniques to the harsh, reservation land near Tucson.

Cook ultimately became an ordained minister in 1881, and he organized the first church on the Pima reservation. In his 40 years of service, he established 14 churches, and he baptized more than 1,000 Indians.

He relocated his Bible School to Phoenix, and renamed it "Cook Christian Training School." CCTS welcomed scores of Native American WWII veterans, who took advantage of the G.I. Bill’s tuition assistance.

By the 1960s, there was an obvious need for a larger site, and a former dairy farm was purchased in nearby Tempe, just a mile away from Arizona State University (ASU). Many students would transfer to ASU, after they had eased into college life at Cook College.

There were no cavernous lecture halls or high-pressure labs at CCTS.

Today, the classes are kept small, so that individual attention may be paid to each student’s needs. Native languages and traditions are respected, while academic excellence and career preparation are the objectives.

As Corbett, once remarked that Cook College’s approach to education is like the work of botanists, who graft one type of rose to another: CCTS cultivates Indian students who go forward and help to create a society that is a beautiful hybrid of many cultures.

Cook College students who merge successfully in mainstream society are the anniversary gifts that will be celebrated throughout 2006.

For further information, visit the college’s Web site: www.cookcollege.org.

Editor’s Note: Although not directly related to Arizona’s boating, fishing, and RV focus, Cook College is a significant part of our state’s heritage, and Arizona Boating & Watersports honors its many years of educating and empowering Native American students. AZBW editor Carol Allen was a member of Cook’s faculty and administration for 12 years: 1984-1996.

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