Claude H. Cookman


President's Award for Teaching (1999)
Indiana University Bloomington
School of Journalism


Claude Cookman's career--featuring daily journalism experience as a photo, graphics and copy editor at newspapers as varied as the Anderson Herald, the Miami Herald and the Courier Journal and Louisville Times where he shared the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography with the photo staff--brings a strong practical background to his classroom at IU. But it is the collaborative, student-centered teaching style that has earned him the lasting appreciation of his students and the respect of his colleagues.

In a syllabus, Cookman explained his approach this way: "You own your own education. You are responsible for it here at Indiana University and for the rest of your life. I will derive great pleasure from helping you achieve as much as you choose to accomplish this semester. But I refuse to push, prod, bribe, shame, trick, cajole or otherwise manipulate you into working and learning. I hope you will learn for the personal satisfaction of learning--not for a grade and not to please me or anyone else except yourself."

"When I first heard him, I thought he was nuts," said Glen Bleske, a journalism professor at California State University at Chico and 1997 California journalism teacher of the year. "I knew students worked for grades, and I used grades to motivate students. He eventually convinced me I was wrong. His respect for students and the learning process led me to change my teaching. Now, I help students become independent learners."

Cookman teaches computerized publication design, visual communications and history of photography, allowing students various choices of assignments and asking them to evaluate their work when they have finished. Through it all, he remains focused on a simple pedagogical philosophy: "First, learning is a fundamental dimension of what it means to be human. Second, my role as a teacher is to help my students achieve their full intellectual, emotional and moral potential."

Cookman's teaching skills have been recognized with the Teaching Excellence Recognition Award in 1998, the IU Alumni Association Student Choice Award for distinguished teaching in 1994, and the Gretchen A. Kemp Teaching Fellowship for excellence in teaching from the School of Journalism in 1993.