After a long battle with illness, Keene State Professor Tom Cook died on Friday, Feb. 17.
The Keene State community is mourning the loss of Professor Tom Cook, who taught in the film department for almost 30 years.
“He was perfect for the job, he engaged with the students, he was there for them 24/7,” said Film Studies department founder and professor emeritus Larry Benaquist.
Cook started teaching at KSC in August 1994 as an Assistant Professor of Film Studies. According to an email sent out by the KSC Office of the Provost, “he took on roles as screenwriter, producer, director, camera operator, sound designer, editor, videographer, cinematographer, and director of photography; contributing to countless documentaries, training videos, commercials, TV shows, and films.”
“He was our first full-time member of the production faculty and he had graduated from USC [University of Southern California]…he was an expert on camera work, color theory and all that,” Benaquist said. “[The department] still has about 150 majors…Tom was a huge part of that, he made it happen.”
Benaquist said that Cook was dedicated to the success of his students.
“He would put the students together into teams so that they understood working collaboratively… that’s really the way the industry works,” Benaquist said. “They had his cell number, they could call him anytime, if they were working on a project and they needed his help, he would be there for them.”
Senior Cole Casper said that Cook strongly supported his education as his professor and advisor.
“He always had a good plan for the class, he always knew what to do…we got to meet some people like William Shatner and other big movie producers and editors, and he was able to give us some insight into how the film industry really works,” Casper said.
He added, “He actually helped me with a scheduling issue with film major requirements, he was very supportive of my current situation where I was forced to retake a class even though I had passed it the previous semester during the COVID online…he was able to get me out of that situation that prevented me from moving on.”
In addition to being a supportive professor, he is remembered for being a fun colleague to be around. “Each year we have two classes that have all seniors and they make long films over the course of the entire year…he would be the MC of the festival and one year he had a really nice tuxedo on and a big red, shiny cummerbund on and I was like, wow, you know, that’s fun he looks like the Academy Awards,” Professor Ted White said.
Additionally, White said that Cook “loved pop culture and his office was kind of like a museum of pop culture and sports icons, comic icons, movie memorabilia…I think he just really embraced the fun side of pop culture through the ages.”
White said that he also admired Cook’s dedication to his students and to his craft.
“I do admire that he really wanted to see people go into the industry and get jobs,” White said. “I do think there’s a realism to figuring out how to make a living doing it and being happy and satisfied… he embodied that.”
Film Studies department chair Jiwon Ahn said that Cook was a valuable member of the department.
“He kind of had a goofy personality…a very unique sense of humor which I liked and I appreciate it,” Ahn said. “We worked nicely together and also because it’s been so long we worked together as family units.”
Ahn mentioned that Cook’s family would be donating his equipment to the department.
“They want to donate everything from his office…he always wanted better equipment and he was really interested in training our students to be responsible workers in the industry,” Ahn said. “They thought hard about this and concluded that’s what Tom would have loved.”
Ahn mentioned that the department plans to honor Cook through tribute events and a video during the film festival at the end of the semester. “So at least, I can lead this process of grieving and mourning as the closest ally, I used to call him comrade,” Ahn said.
Nicole Dumont can be contacted at