It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Dr. William W. Cook. Known as Bill to friends, colleagues, and students he educated since arriving at Dartmouth in 1973, he was the Israel Evans Professor of Oratory and Belles Lettres and Professor of English, Emeritus. Before retiring from Dartmouth in 2006, Bill was a long-time chair of the African & African American Studies Program (previously known as the Black Studies Program). He was a founding and active member of the Dartmouth Black Caucus.
Bill generously endowed an award that the AAAS department gives out in his and his sister’s name. The William Cook-Louise Cook Jacobs Award in African American Arts and Letters is awarded to a fourth year student or students whose work displays an interest and excellence in African American arts and letters. Additionally, the English department established the Annual William W. Cook Lecture in his honor, which saw Frank Wilderson, III ’78 deliver the lecture in 2016.
Known for his grand oratory skills, love for Black poetry, deep sense of spirituality, and immense amount of compassion, Bill made Dartmouth a more enjoyable place for all who were blessed with his presence. When released, information about Dr. Cook’s memorial service or funeral will be added to this post, posted on our Facebook, and sent out to BADA members via email. With much love and admiration, the BADA community will miss him. Please feel free to leave a note of your favorite memory of Professor Cook in the comments below and on our BADA Talks Facebook group.
Although I didn’t have the privilege of studying under Dr. Cook, he created an unforgettable night.
We all watched Apocalypse Now in a lounge in the Choates, probably between Cohen and Bissell. Bill watched it with us, then, without notes, gave us an hour-long unpacking of what we had just seen, not only referring to the Conrad original but also walking us through Shakespeare plays, too. It has been 33 years or so, so I don’t feel bad about not remembering the details. But I remember how he made me feel. Human themes transcended genre or medium. It was possible to engage with art at a far deeper level than I knew how to. Every work needs to be seen in a broader context. Be open.
I wish I had taken the opportunity to say "thank you" to Dr. Cook before his death. I hope he knew how much of an influence he had on people he touched only briefly.