NCC honors a "forever friend"

Classroom dedicated in memory of Dr. Arnold Cook

Heidi Butler, photos by Brian Shaud,

There he was. Smiling as always. The man who helped to start Northampton Community College's dental hygiene program, who was among the founders of the college's Foundation, and who endowed scholarships that have benefited hundreds of students, rarely missed an event on campus.

Dr. Arnold Cook's absence has been felt since his death on June 7. But on October 23, his smiling face beamed at guests from images projected on the wall of a classroom being named in his honor. He was present not only in the pictures, but in the hearts of those who gathered to pay tribute to him.

"I only knew him for two years," said NCC's president, Dr. Mark Erickson, "but I felt like he was my best friend. Everyone felt that way."

The words resonated with Dr. Cook's daughter Melissa. She said many people recalled her father that way.

"Having you all here symbolizes what [our father] was all about," Melissa's brother Andy told the crowd. "He was about relationships and friendships."

Andy and Melissa both said they were aware of their father's love of "NAKKAK" from the time they were little. "Dad was always a big believer in education. It was always something he held up as important. And he believed in education for everyone. That was one of the reasons he loved Northampton so much," Andy reflected.

Dr. Cook also loved being an orthodontist, and he loved the people he met through his work. That was one of the reasons he didn't retire until he was 82, Andy said.

Erickson noted that Dr. Cook had a positive influence on people. "All sorts of dentists and hygienists are doing what they are doing because of your dad," the president told Andy and Melissa.

Sherri Meyers is one of them. The director of NCC's dental hygiene program was once a patient of Dr. Cook's. Her interest in dental work as a career began in those years. "Teaching in this room will have special meaning for me," she said.

Andy and Melissa joined Erickson in unveiling the plaque that will be on display outside Room 405 in the Fowler Family Southside Center where NCC's dental hygiene students take many classes. The inscription describes Dr. Cook as a "beloved friend, leader and NCC champion."

Had Dr. Cook been physically present, he undoubtedly would have stayed to watch the second year dental hygiene students present their "table clinics" in preparation for a statewide gathering of dental hygiene majors in November. There they will hone their presentation skills and begin to fulfill the role of health educators as they share displays and information on topics ranging from oral health to nutrition to celiac disease.

Several dental hygiene graduates attended to help students get ready for the conference. They remembered their own table clinics. And they remembered Dr. Cook with fondness.

More photos from this event can be viewed in this photo gallery.