Cook. Let's see—have we not heard that name before? Never mind! You need not "bring on your Eskimos." We shall adduce nothing that needs corroboration. Our case is proven. No instruments need be brought from Etah. We are not on the road either to or from the north pole—just merely taking a pleasant little trip up Spearfish canyon with Fayette L. Cook, president of the Spearfish State Normal School.

Here is a man whose life is an open book; who never faked a trip up a mountain, saw the "midnight sun," had his moral vision obscured by the aurora borealis. or confessed a brain-storm through Hampton's Magazine—at so much per line. Here is a man who went west instead of north, who staid instead of returned, who became a monumental benefactor instead of a monumental malefactor, who is embellishing his name instead of relishing his shame, who tells the whole truth instead of playing the sleuth, who looks onward and upward, nor backward and downward.

In our "Who's Who" series, we have seen that one of our men, prominent in the public life of the state, came from New Hampshire, two from New York, two from Iowa, and a superlative abundance of them from Wisconsin; but this is the first time we have picked up a victim from Michigan.

President Cook made his advent into this world in Ottawa county, Michigan, sixty years ago last August. He deceives the public in one thing only—his looks portend him to be a man of not over forty-five. We wish he might live forever. In fact, we think he will. The good men do is not always "interred with their bones."

Like the others who have won distinction, at an early age, Cook went west. Few men ever became "big" by going east (Taft tried it.) Down east is a good place to spend your fortune—out west is the place to make it.

President Cook is a graduate of the state normal school at Winona, Minnesota. He taught in country and village schools for three years; in the Minneapolis Commercial school one year; was city superintendent 1872-4; taught in the Winona normal 1876-9; was superintendent of Olmstead county, Minnesota, 1881-4; was instructor in thirty-eight teachers' institutes in Minnesota; and continuously, since 1885, he has been president of the Spearfish (S. D.) state normal school.

It will keep any other man in the state running to beat this record. Think of it! Twenty-five years—a quarter of a century—at the head of one of our schools. During this time we all know what has happened to the others. Trouble? Politics! Cook has been over in that western region where he has been left alone.

By the way, if those philosophical literary students who contend that a man has no right to digress from his theme, will not be too severe on us, we should like to halt here for a moment to interject the proposition that those chaps over in the Black Hills region have demonstrated the fact that they are a pretty sturdy set of pioneers. They have kept Martin at Washington through six congresses, Strachan as city superintendent of schools at Deadwood for twenty consecutive years, and Cook at the head of the Spearfish normal for twenty-five.

Suppose the constitutional limitation on county superintendents of schools, embodied city superintendents and the heads of our state schools; where would Cook be? Where would the Spearfish Normal be? Well, it might as well have been the law, far as the region east of the river is concerned. But a new day has just dawned upon us. The flippancy of early days and the formative period of a young state are just sinking beneath the horizon; the east is reddening with the rosy-tipped fingers of a more stable period.



The students of the Spearfish normal issue an "Annual" which they have named "Skiddoo." In the one issued in June, 1909, they paid a most deserved tribute to their esteemed president. We clip and use only a small portion:

"When Mr. Cook came to Spearfish, he found educational matters in a deplorable condition. From a small school in which he himself did all the teaching, a school devoid of apparatus, library, and other necessary material, has grown the present institution with its splendid faculty, well equipped laboratories and excellent library; its training school which affords exceptional advantages for the training of teachers; its dormitory, which through its excellent management, provides a comfortable home at such a reasonable rate, that it affords an opportunity for girls in the most meager circumstances to get an education, and to live in an atmosphere of culture and refinement. All this has our president accomplished for us. From day to day he has labored, bearing up under difficulties and trying situations, because of lack of funds, but each day through his untiring energy and zeal, the institution has grown until it now stands in one of the most picturesque spots in Spearfish, a monument to the efforts of one of nature's noblemen. *  *  * We, the Senior class of nineteen hundred nine, extend to Mr. Cook our warmest congratulations for the wonderful success of his undertakings, and our sincere gratitude to him who has made it possible for us to look back with pleasure on the happy days spent with our alma mater. —Sentiments of Senior Class, '09."


Napoleon said: "Man is the product of his surroundings." In other words, if a man associates with children all his life, he becomes childish. This explains the uselessness of old worn-out pedagogs. Teachers, in general, are mere theorists. They are not at fault; they see and teach only theortical things. Few of them ever come in contact with the practical side of life.

Not so with President Cook. He has made the commercial side of Spearfish and of Lawrence county as much his business as school affairs. The businesss men of that community have great regard for his judgment. We recall having attended a "good roads" convention held in the opera house at Deadwood in the spring of 1909, at which President Cook, as a member of the committee from Spearfish, was present; and how attentively he as listened to by the large class of business men in attendance the meeting; and how one of these substantial chaps, leaning over to a friend, when President Cook had finsihed speaking, said: "There's an educator with some common sense." This incident reveals only too plainly the light in which those of us are held by the business world, who have been engaged for a number of years in the teaching profession.

We recall just now that splendid paper read by President ok before the S. D. E. A. at Lead, in November, 1909, on "Waste in Education;" how he approached his subject, and dealt with it, from a hard-headed, practical business standpoint. We need in educational affairs more men of Cook's calibre.


Most men marry about the time they reach their majority, at least before they are twenty-five. Cook knew that his marriage contract was perhaps the longest one he would ever sign, so took plenty of time to consider it well. If the idea entered his head at twenty-one, then he must have taken another twenty-one years to think it over, for he did not marry until his forty-second year. This was long enough to win both a Rachael and a Leah, with an equal margin for a third.

However, on August 25, 1892, he was united in marriage at Winona, to Wenonoa Culbertson.


It will thus be seen that Cook is a great man. He has no use for "grandstand;" he doesn't care for titles. Plain "Mr." is good enough for him. As yet he has not been honored with "Dr." Mighty lucky just at present.


©2002, Virginia A. Cisewski
All Rights Reserved