How did you come to work at F&M?
I was right out of high school when I started. I had always wanted to fly. So I thought about the Air Force and then decided to try to be a stewardess. I wrote to the airlines, but they said they didn’t hire someone so young. I took the job here and figured I’d try it for a year. Once I bought my first car—an MG sports car—I made it permanent so I could afford it.
What has been the biggest change at F&M?
The biggest change by far was when the College became co-ed. That was really the best thing that happened to F&M, too.
Why do you enjoy the English department so much?
The key to our department has been the harmony. And I learn from them every day. I never stop learning. I can’t think of another job where I’d be so exposed to the arts. I feel like the liberal arts starts with English. Would I have read the classics if I didn’t work here? I don’t think so.
What is a favorite aspect of your job?
Meeting the many authors who come here. I’ve met poets and Pulitzer-Prize-winning writers through the Hausman Lecture and Emerging Writers Festival. I feel privileged to be a part of all of it. I feel privileged that students allow me to be a part of their four years. I still hear from students who went here in the ‘80s. I love that.
Why did you stay?
I can’t think of another job that would be as fulfilling and fun. I like seeing the students every day. They keep me young by talking with me about fads, music and TV. I like the whole community here and how we’re all connected.
What have you learned about yourself?
I’m much more outgoing than I ever gave myself credit for. When I first got here, I felt intimidated. But in my mind I rose above that. I learned that you have to keep learning and be open to new ideas. It has all helped me grow.
What advice do you have for your replacement?
Just have fun with it. The people here make you feel so accomplished. I’ll go to a reading or some event, and from the stage someone shouts out: “Thank you, Cookie!” They never stop praising you for doing a good job.
What are you doing when you leave?
I’m going to haunt this place. Actually, I think I already do haunt this place!
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Jill Colford Schoeniger ’86.