cornell fencing mourns loss of legend, connie cook


Portions courtesy of Ithaca Journal
Photo courtesy of Ithaca Journal

ITHACA – Constance Eberhardt Cook, former New York State Assemblywoman and the first female vice president at Cornell University, died Tuesday at her home in Ithaca. She was 89.

Shirley Egan, associate university counsel at Cornell, remembers Cook as a straight shooter who knew what she wanted and went after it.

“She was always a leader who never set boundaries for herself,” Egan said.

As a woman in law, Cook, known as Connie, constantly broke new ground. A Republican who represented the 128th Assembly District for 12 years, Cook became the first woman to head a major committee of the state Legislature when she was appointed chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee in 1969 and was a strong advocate for women’s rights.

In September, Cook had a heart attack and had suffered from other heart problems recently.

She spent her last day watching President Barack Obama’s inauguration with fellow residents at Longview, the residential senior community on South Hill, said Sally True, Cook’s former assistant and longtime friend.

Cook was born Aug. 17, 1919 in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She graduated from Cornell with a bachelor’s degree in 1941 and stayed on to earn her law degree in two years from Cornell Law School. She received honorary degrees from Smith, Skidmore and Keuka colleges, and her first job as an attorney was with the prestigious law firm Shearman and Sterling on Wall Street in New York City. Cook was a member of Gov. Thomas E. Dewey’s staff and attended the Hague Academy of International Law in Oslo as a Fulbright Scholar, before opening a private practice in Ithaca in 1953. Cook married Alfred Cook in 1955, and they had two children, Catherine, an Ithaca resident, and John.

Cook’s contributions have been recognized many times in the Ithaca community. In 1986 she was inducted into the Cornell Hall of Fame for fencing and women’s hockey.

For the completely unedited story that documents Cook’s complete life’s work, head to the Ithaca Journal.


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