the Goshen College Bulletin | Alumni magazine since 1956

Called in faith to serve: Andrea Cook

Andrea Cook’s father called her this spring with a request: Could she help out for a week at family ranch by helping to drive cattle out of the canyon to their summer home on higher ground? Though she is settling into the inviting home she recently purchased on Goshen’s west side, and is deeply engaged in her work as vice president for institutional advancement, she made herself available to her family. At the first of May, she asked for updates on both new student applications and contributions to the GC Fund received, among other necessary tasks, then prepared to get back in the saddle – literally – to move cattle from an over-wintering canyon to the higher ground of summer grazing, a tradition as old as the ranch established by her ancestors three generations ago in eastern Oregon.

Serving where she is needed and called is a theme that has pervaded Cook’s life, continuing even when she was beckoned from more than 2,000 miles from home by President Shirley H. Showalter who invited Andrea to bring her 26 years of experience in higher education, 22 of them at Christian colleges, to Goshen.

“At the core of my life and my faith is making myself available to God – of trusting Him, and going where He wants me to go,” Cook said. “I feel really called to be here, to bring my experience and gifts to the work that Goshen College is doing. It is through sharing our different gifts that we demonstrate the body of Christ, and contribute to the strength of this place as we serve students and their diverse needs.”

But reminders of home are not far away. In her office on the Administration Building’s lower floor – Cook refers to it as the “garden level” since her window opens directly into a patch of ivy ground cover – are photos of her family’s mountain-shadowed acreage. There is also a portrait of her mother who, a month and a half before suffering a severe, and eventually life-ending, stroke, wrote her daughter a letter that affirmed her sense of calling to Goshen College, and a continuance of a remarkable journey.

Cook’s career in Christian higher education began immediately after she graduated from Northwest Nazarene College in 1977 with a degree in elementary education. She had every intention of finding a position as an elementary school teacher, and told God that she would accept the first position she was offered. Then she visited Judson Baptist College, where she received her associate’s degree, and was unexpectedly asked by the school’s president to interview for one of three open jobs on campus. She chose the most challenging position among those offered: to become the college’s first-ever financial aid director (she would eventually work as director of admission, also). Like the achiever that she is – a “signature strength” of Cook’s as noted by the “StrengthsFinder Inventory” tool, a gifts-assessment program developed by the Gallup Organization that she has used extensively – she learned about federal loans and monies and began a new vocational path.

A few years later, around the same time that Judson Baptist experienced a significant budget crisis and ultimately couldn’t pay its employees, Cook experienced a life-threatening injury that resulted from a serious automobile accident. She was totally disabled for seven months and went through intense physical therapy. But despite the difficulty, doctors told Cook she was healing miraculously, and fortunately there was still insurance coverage for her care. The hours in recuperation, which perhaps at first felt frustratingly unproductive to such an active person, allowed her to deepen her relationship with God.

“I learned a lot through the process of healing from a broken neck and shoulder. I learned that being is more important than doing – that who I am supposed to be is more important than what I am supposed to do. I found deep meaning in the verse, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ I didn’t have any choice,” said Cook. “Through it all, I really came to know myself, and to understand that God had a purpose in my life whether I always understand it or not. My faith is big enough to follow God.”

In 1987, just after she completed a master’s degree in educational policy and management at the University of Oregon (where she simultaneously worked in the financial aid office), Cook joined George Fox University. Her 15-year tenure there eventually included roles as director of marketing and admission for continuing studies, director of graduate admission and student services, registrar and vice president for enrollment services.

Energized by challenges, Cook enjoyed helping the school grow its enrollment, diversify programs and open new locations for adult programs in Oregon and Idaho in addition to the main campus in Newberg. She also taught classes, served as a mentor to students who still call her regularly and kept softball team statistics. She also served as project manager for George Fox’s most recent building project.

Then Goshen College knocked, and, rather than dismissing the call as coming from too far away from her geographical roots, Cook listened. She recognized Goshen’s significant strengths as well as its current needs, and found an opportunity to learn more about constituent relationships and development – an area of university life she had yet to fully explore. She could also connect to GC’s wholistic approach to education.

“The four years in college are crucial in personal development – they were very significant for me in discovering that I didn’t have all the answers, but that I could learn to ask good questions and to trust God. A foundation is created for the opportunities and choices in adulthood: career, gaining a sense of calling, making lifelong friends and often meeting a spouse and owning one’s faith,” said Cook. “Students are nurtured at home in strong values, and at college those values are tested. At a Christian college, students aren’t in a closed incubator, but they receive support while they are challenged to think about who they are, to have good questions and to trust in God. Christian colleges recognize the wholeness of life, not just one piece of a student’s development.”

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