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Somethin' to Write Home About: Prestigious Dr. Cook

An exhibit featuring letters from the Regional History Center Collections

Dr. Cook

Dr. John Cook, c. 1900

Castle on a Hill, Chapter 2

Prestigious Dr. Cook

April 20, 1902

The first president of the Northern Illinois State Normal School (Northern Illinois University), Dr. John Cook, writes to a man named Fred. This unique letter shows a more personal side of a prestigious figure. He wrote to his friend about being busy on Saturdays preventing him from visiting family and friends. Although this would be the longest time he had waited to see them he assures Fred that he has put forth effort to faithfully visit since moving to DeKalb three years ago. “You see that I have been fairly faithful to mother and the rest.” Dr. Cook goes on in the letter notifying Fred of his efforts to lose weight:

I am adhering to a careful diet but it gives me but little inconvenience. I have lost a few pounds but seven or eight will hardly count where one has so much to lose as I have. I feel so much improved that I am trying to speculate as to what I should do if I could manage to drop twenty-five. Obesity is one of the diseases of civilization…There is only one time of day when I can fast in the requisite manner and that is just after I have had a good meal.

Dr. Cook also provides a contrasting view of the agriculturally-based DeKalb of today. He noted that new houses were “Springing up like mushrooms,” and that the steel mills were desperately looking for qualified help. “It is an odd sort of a town, at least to me. I never before lived in a manufacturing community. After so long a residence in an agricultural district I find the contrast striking.”

President’s Papers, UA 4, Box 2, Folder 3

Original NIU pendant


A pendant from Northern Illinois State Teacher's College (later renamed Northern Illinois University)

Pendant N.I.S.T.C. UA 11, Series III, map cabinet drawer 7