For Immediate Release — Friday, October 28, 2005


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

SUNY Geneseo Professor William Cook, a Finalist for Prestigious Teaching Award, will Deliver Cherry Lecture Nov. 10

GENESEO, N.Y. — William R. Cook, a Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the State University of New York at Geneseo and one of three finalists for Baylor University's 2006 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, will deliver a lecture Thursday, Nov. 10, at SUNY Geneseo.

Cook delivered the same lecture Oct. 13 at Baylor, in Waco, Texas. A condition of the competition is that he delivers the lecture at his home campus. The lecture, "The Head of St. Catherine of Siena," also will double as the history department's Annual Undergraduate Lecture. The speech begins at 12:45 p.m. in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom. A reception will immediately follow in the Hunt Room in the MacVittie College Union.

Cook will discuss both the relic of St. Catherine's head, and her thoughts, as expressed through her teaching and writing. Through this prism, he will suggest the difficulty of "getting inside the head" of someone as distant from us in thought and world-view as St. Catherine, who died in 1380. Then, he will argue that such intellectual struggle gives us a way to deal with the "differentness" we experience today in our global village. Ultimately, the lecture will be about the value of studying history, even—and especially—pre-modern history, according to Cook.

Baylor University presents the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching every other year. The award honors outstanding professors in the English-speaking world who are distinguished for their ability to communicate as classroom teachers. Nominees must have proven track records as extraordinary teachers with positive, inspiring and long-lasting effects on students, along with records of distinguished scholarship.

The other finalists are Anton E. Armstrong, Tosdal Professor of Music at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and Robert W. Brown, Institute Professor of Physics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Each finalist received $15,000, and their home department also received $10,000 to foster the development of teaching skills. The award winner, who will be announced in the spring of 2006, will receive $200,000 and $25,000 for the professor's home department. In addition, the winner will teach in residence during the fall 2006 or spring 2007 semester at Baylor.

A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Cook earned his bachelor's degree from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., and his master's degree and doctorate from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Concentrating on medieval history, he studied with well-known medievalist Brian Tierney and spent a year conducting his dissertation research in Oxford, Vienna and several cities in the former Czechoslovakia. In 1970, he joined Geneseo as an assistant professor of history. In 1984, at the age of 40, he was named a Distinguished Teaching Professor.

Throughout his career, Cook has focused much of his research on St. Francis of Assisi. He has published a short biography and a book about Italian paintings of St. Francis that are housed in the U.S., as well as a catalogue of all the paintings of Francis. He has published articles about medieval monasticism, Dante, "The Song of Roland," and the teaching of history and humanities. He is co-author with Geneseo Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Ron Herzman of "The Medieval World View," published by Oxford University Press. He also appeared on a Learning Channel documentary on Dante and a Hallmark documentary on St. Francis. Currently, he is working on two articles in the field of American history.

Recognized from the beginning of his career as a good teacher, he received the inaugural SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1974. In 1992, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education named Cook New York state's Professor of the Year. In 2003, Cook and Herzman received the first annual CARA Award for excellence in the teaching of medieval studies from the Medieval Academy of America.

Cook has made an impact on the community in other ways, too. In 1998, he made an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Congress. The morning after Election Day, he sent his substitute home and returned to the classroom, where he belongs. He also is a columnist for the Livingston County News and a member of the board of contributors of the Rochester, N.Y., Democrat and Chronicle.