Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine celebrates Al Cook at retirement party

Faculty, staff, students and friends gathered this past Thursday to say farewell to Al Cook, professor, former Dean and most importantly, friend and mentor of many, at the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.

Rehab Med staff , with files from UAlberta - 05 March 2014

A professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Special Advisor to the Provost at the University of Alberta, Cook served as Dean of Rehabilitation Medicine from 1994 to 2007. Known as an expert in assistive devices and effective communication technology, Cook is also associated with the I CAN Centre at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.

Cook's research interests include augmentative and alternative communication, biomedical instrumentation and assistive technology design, development and evaluation. His most recent research has focused on the use of robotics with young children who have severe disabilities to develop and assess cognitive and linguistic skills. Cook's co-authored textbook, Assistive Technologies: Principles and Practice, has been translated into various languages and remains very popular in occupational therapy and rehabilitation programs.

Friends and colleagues from the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine share their fondest memories, stories and well wishes for Al Cook:

I've always admired Al for his sincerity and integrity. He has always led by example. He has an understated manner in his interactions and a thoughtful, considerate approach to life and work. He is passionate about all that he does, and is the consummate researcher and mentor, yet his smile is broadest when he speaks of his family, particularly his grandchildren. His influence on the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, research on children with disabilities, and his students and colleagues has been, and will continue to be, great. I wish him health and happiness during this next exciting phase of his life.
Tammy Hopper, Associate Dean, Grad Studies and Research

The one thing I remember about Al is how he used to give books as presents to the Dean's Office staff every Christmas and these books were always so relevant to our personalities or interests. It was very thoughtful of him.
Judy Sara, Administrative Assistant, Professional Programs and Teaching

One of our memories of Al is his commitment to supporting interdisciplinary research activities. In 1997, Al announced special funding to support the establishment of research groups that had members from at least two departments within the faculty. More than one group in the faculty got their official start in that period. Our group, the Applied Developmental Neuroscience group included Al in those early years. As part of that group, we developed ongoing research collaborations across disciplines examining the long term development of children's gross motor, fine motor, and communication skills. These collaborations form some of our best memories of research at Corbett. We wish Al all the best as he begins his own study of the development of his grandchildren.
Joyce Magill-Evans, Acting Chair, Occupational Therapy
Johanna Darrah, Professor, Physical Therapy
Joanne Volden, Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders
Megan Hodge, Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders

Recently, Kim Adams shared with us some information about which people outside the immediate world of assistive technology might not be aware. Al wrote a textbook called Assistive Technology: Principles and Practice (with Sue Hussey in the first and second edition, with Jan Polgar in a third edition, and I understand the 4th edition is underway). Al is famous for this book; it is often referred to as "the Cook book for assistive technology." People all over the world are thrilled when they meet Al and often ask him to sign their copies of his "Cook" book.
Karen Pollock, Chair, Communication Sciences and Disorders

I have interacted with Al in many of his roles since we first met years ago - in 1980 something. Al visited from California to help set up the Assistive Device Service at the Glenrose, now renamed the I Can Centre for Assistive Technology, where I volunteered and worked in those early years. He was the president of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, of which I was a member. He was my supervisor when I did my PhD. We've been co-investigators on several research projects, but I'd like to tell you about Al's role as professor in the Alternative and Augmentative Communication course. Al challenged the students to do what they would need to do in the real world. He used nine or ten case study clients, and took on the role of the client and mother, father, OT, teacher, employer, and ...as students performed interviews, assessments, and recommendations. Though the students thought it was tough at the time, past students have emailed him to let him know how well prepared they felt when they got out to their practice.

As most of you know, Al has a son with a developmental disability, and actually, his son was one of the case study clients in the course. The last thing that Al would say to the students at the end of the course was, "I would trust all of you working with my son". I think that was a very touching and meaningful learning experience for the students.

For anyone who has worked with Al, you know that he's got a great sense of humour, and that really helps to keep the enjoyment in work whether it's administration, research, or course work.
Kim Adams, Assistant Professor, Rehabilitation Medicine

We are Dr. Cook's PhD students, and we have the honour of being Dr. Cook's last PhD students. It is our great privilege to be here. We knew Dr. Cook from his famous Cook Book. We studied with it, taught with it, and it was our Assistive Technology Bible. It was Adri's idea to invite Dr. Cook for a conference in Colombia. I was sure he was going to say no. But he said yes. And so we picked him up at the airport, Googled his picture so that we could recognize him, and had him sign four copies of his Cook Book. It is truly a dream come true for us to be here studying under his supervision. These things don't always happen. People don't just get to study with whom taught them everything they know from a book, but we did! It's been an honour. We will forever be your mentorees and that means the world to us!
Liliana Alvarez, PhD student, Rehabilitation Science and
Adriana Rios Ricon, PhD student, Rehabilitation Science

I'll never forget how much Al believed in all of us and in our work. He took the time to understand everyone's research program. As a result, he could - and did - talk to anyone and everyone about the work being done by members of his Faculty. One example was when he was leading a tour for the Alumni Association. It was Al's talking about the Faculty that led a couple on the tour to decide that the Faculty should be the beneficiary in their will.

He reminded me not to lose sight of what was important in the rush to accomplish the urgent. He didn't give up on any of us even when we were ready to give up on ourselves. He encouraged all of us to remember that grants and publications were 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

And he did it all with a sense of humour. I'll miss him saying, "Are we having fun yet?" in the midst of a long meeting, or "Whew, tell me what you really think?" after one of my outrageous comments.
Joanne Volden, Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders

Al, your passion for this field and selflessness in helping all of us become better at what we do is an inspiration to all. We look forward to your ongoing involvement with this Faculty and we wish you will in your next phase of life's great adventure.
Bob Haennel, Acting Dean, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine

Visit the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine Facebook page to see more photos from this event.