Southwestern Michigan College founding trustee Barbara Wood Cook brings so much to the table, Cass County created a new Legacy Achievement Award. It took eight speakers and two state legislators May 3 to extol the educator’s accomplishments at a reception in the Kincheloe room of the 1899 Cassopolis courthouse. Chairman Terry Ausra presented the award on behalf of Commissioners Clark Cobb, Roseann Marchetti, Michael Grice, Dwight Dyes, Dixie Ann File and Robert Ziliak.
“The Board of Trustees has always been comprised of strong, caring, community-service-oriented individuals like Barbara,” President Dr. David Mathews said. “Since the college’s inception, she advocated strongly for robust vocational/technical education. Largely because of her influence, SMC in 1967 opened a 15,000-square-foot vocational/technical building as its first project after the college’s creation. It became SMC’s fourth building. On Aug. 11, 1974, the Board of Trustees dedicated the Barbara Wood Building. In 1983, a 5,600-square-foot addition was added for automotive technology and welding. In 2007, SMC completed a major renovation/expansion to over 25,000 square feet constructed in accordance with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) due to her commitment to environmental stewardship.
“Although welding and robotics are at our Niles Campus and construction trades and automotive programs are in the Kairis Building, Wood provides students access to top-shelf, post-secondary education in computer technology and business that leads to good-paying jobs. She was a longtime adjunct business faculty member and served on our museum advisory committee for many years. We honor her lifetime of contributions to Southwestern Michigan College.” Chairman Thomas Jerdon and Vice Chairman Keith McKenzie represented SMC’s board.
Cook, Pokagon Township supervisor for 10 years after leaving SMC in 1991, received a legislative tribute signed by U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, state Sen. John Proos and Reps. Aaron Miller and Dave Pagel; a Cass County Parks and Recreation Environmental Stewardship Award from Parks Director Scott Wyman; and a Cass County Planning Commission proclamation presented by Planning Commission Secretary and SMC Vice President of Instruction Dr. David Fleming declaring “Barbara Wood Cook Day.”
Under Cook's leadership, the Planning Commission in 2014 joined with six municipalities — Pokagon, Volinia, Wayne and Silver Creek townships and Edwardsburg and Vandalia villages — on a master plan that won the 2015 Graham Woodhouse Intergovernmental Cooperation Award. “That’s my proudest accomplishment,” Cook said.
Cook joined the planning commission in 2000, serving as chair from 2006 until January 2018.