The Herald-Times

Cook Center for Entrepreneurship dedicated

May 5, 2011

By Rebecca Troyer
331-4243 |

“Keep it simple and make it practical” were the late Bill Cook’s words of advice to organizers of the Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship, founded last year on the Bloomington campus of Ivy Tech Community College.

That message was reiterated at the formal dedication of the center Wednesday afternoon at the center’s headquarters at Liberty Crossing, where photographs and artwork depicting the history and success of the Cook Group companies line the walls.

With a mission of encouraging students, citizens and the community “to develop and implement practical tools and resources ... to foster entrepreneurship at Ivy Tech Bloomington and in the broader economic development region it serves,” the center is Ivy Tech’s third such collaboration, along with the Center for Civic Engagement and the Indiana Center for Life Sciences.

“Bill Cook was the epitome of entrepreneurship,” said Steve Ferguson, chairman of the Cook Group.

In his remarks, Ferguson challenged future businesses that might be launched through the center to become engaged in the community, following the example set by founders of Showers Brothers Furniture, Sarkes Tarzian, Ralph Rogers and Cook himself.

“When there was an important issue in the community, these people were at the table,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson and his wife Connie, who is a member of Ivy Tech Bloomington’s regional board of trustees, were honored at Wednesday’s ceremony for a major gift made to the center in honor of Bill Cook’s birthday last year. A wall plaque dedicated to the Fergusons was unveiled by Bill Cook’s son, Carl, who became the CEO of Cook Group upon his father’s death April 15.

Since opening nine months ago, at least 30 potential business owners have come to the center for assistance, said Joyce Poling, who oversees community engagement activities.

“People with good ideas will be job creators,” Poling said.

Executive director Steve Bryant said the center will be offering five new classes in entrepreneurship in the fall, and plans are under way for a second fall institute in September.

In a somber moment during his otherwise upbeat welcome speech, John Whikehart, chancellor of the Bloomington campus, noted the absence of the center’s namesake.

“I wish we had been able to do this a month ago,” Whikehart said.

Copyright: 2011