Mortar Board was the first national organization honoring senior college women. In the Fall of 1926, the Purdue Chapter of Mortar Board was chartered and since that time has grown to preeminence in the national organization, which claims 226 college chapters. Mortar Board remained a society for senior women until 1975 when men were permitted to join its prestigious ranks. The group was originally called SLS (Service, Leadership, Scholarship) in 1926 as a senior women’s honorary and officially called Mortar Board in 1927.
Barbara I. Cook devoted her career to student affairs administration – a career that culminated in a distinguished tenure as Purdue’s dean of students. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Arkansas in 1951, a master’s degree in student personnel administration from Syracuse University in 1954 and a doctorate in counseling and personnel services from Purdue in 1967. As Barbara Wood, she was initiated into Mortar Board at the University of Arkansas in 1950.
She came to Purdue in 1956 as a counselor in the Office of the Dean of Women. During that time, she was director of the Placement Service for Women, assistant and associate dean of women and associate dean of students before serving as dean of students from 1980 to 1987. She also held a lectureship in the School of Education, and was a professor of education from 1987 until her Purdue retirement in 1989.
During her 33 year career at Purdue, Cook received numerous awards including the Helen B. Schleman Gold Medallion award in 1976, having the Mortar Board Chapter named in her honor in 1987, the Sagamore of the Wabash award in 1987 and an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Purdue in 1996. The YWCA of Greater Lafayette named her the Mary Keller Ade Woman of Wisdom at the 2001 Salute to Women banquet.
Dr. Cook was nationally recognized for her advocacy of broadening career opportunities for women. At the national level, she served as president, national program chair and foundation president for the National Association of Women Deans, Administrators and Counselors (later known as the National Association for Women in Education) and as president of the Mortar Board Foundation. She was the Purdue Mortar Board chapter’s advisor for 30 years. The Helen Blanche Schleman Gold Medallion Award that she received recognizes individuals who have helped make major advances for female faculty or administrators on campus.
After her retirement, she was an active community volunteer with the Salvation Army, Greater Lafayette YWCA, West Lafayette Redevelopment Commission and the Indiana Governor’s Commission for Women, among others. In July 2002, Barbara Cook was the recipient of the “Distinguished Lifetime Mortar Board Member” award, the highest honor given to alumni members by Mortar Board, Inc. and the Mortar Board National Foundation to alumni who have demonstrated Mortar Board’s continuing commitment to the ideals of scholarship, leadership and service. The Purdue marker at the corner of Northwestern and Stadium Avenues was named in her honor by the Barbara Cook Chapter of Mortar Board with funds raised from friends and loyal alums.
In 1904, Purdue seniors began a tradition of wearing & decorating corduroy pants with logos that are reflective of the different personalities and interests of the wearer. This tradition is one of Mortar Board's favorites and every year, our members decorate a pair of pants to wear during their senior year! Look around campus and you might see a pair of these!