Paul Cocke, director of the Office of University Communications at Western Washington University, will retire in December after 18 years of service to the University.
"I want to thank many friends throughout campus whose support and tremendous dedication to Western made my job very meaningful," Cocke said. "I especially want to thank current and former colleagues in University Communications. Katrina Schuster, Jemma Everyhope-Roser, Pam Smith and Carolyn Puelz all were so kind to help bridge my administrative ineptitude. Suzanne Blais, Rhys Logan, Chris Baker and Derek Bryson brought the wonderful stories of Western to life visually.
"A hallmark of University Communications through the years has been exceptionally talented writers - John Thompson, Mary Gallagher and Zoe Fraley now write excellent and compelling stories about Western. Previously, Matthew Anderson, Lynne Masland, Jo Collinge, Kathy Sheehan and the late Tanya Rowe set an incredibly high standard for superb writing and storytelling."
John Thompson has been named interim director of University Communications, and he thanked Cocke for his mentorship, advice, and friendship over the almost 15 years they worked together.
"To everyone who has worked in University Communications during his tenure, Paul has been the kind of boss who encouraged us to push the boundaries of what we do, try new things, and grow in our jobs. We'll all miss him," Thompson said.
Cocke's career included graduate school in Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He worked as a reporter or editor for daily newspapers the Durham Morning Herald and the Greenville News, as well as the Associated Press, United Press International, and weeklies the Easley Progress and Pickens Sentinel in South Carolina and the Anacortes American in Anacortes.
As editor of the Easley Progress, Cocke and a small editorial staff extensively covered and first broke the story of settlement of a class-action lawsuit - at the time one of the largest environmental legal settlements in U.S. history - by hundreds of local residents over PCB pollution of a river basin, which was later listed by the EPA as a huge Superfund site. As assistant state editor at the Greenville News, he was part of an editorial staff that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He has received numerous journalism awards.
He also was vice president and partner at Rehabco Inc., in Mount Vernon, a firm that assists people with disabilities.
At Western, Cocke served during three university presidents, four provosts and four vice presidents of what is now the Division of University Relations & Marketing. He often acted as media spokesperson for the university Administration and Board of Trustees. He helped publicize or respond to student, faculty and staff achievements, important advances and ongoing struggles with efforts to diversify campus, financial constraints during the Great Recession, new building construction and campus expansion, and the many complex challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He worked closely with current University Police Chief Darin Rasmussen and two former university police chiefs to communicate myriad threats and safety issues to the campus community. He was part of a campus team that developed and continues to improve the Western Alert emergency notification system at Western.
Also, he helped edit a book written by Western alum Ater Malath titled "Tenacious: My Journey from War in Sudan to New Life in America."
Cocke received two awards from the university for Exceptional Effort and was a member of two Western Team Recognition awards (response to the 2015 Chemistry Building fire and during the 2020-21 academic year for participation on the WWU COVID-19 Incident Management Team).
"I am honored to have collaborated with fantastic colleagues to tell the stories of Western students, faculty and staff and the importance of higher education," Cocke said.
Cocke and his wife Diane live in Sedro-Woolley, where they raised five children. They have two grandchildren with a third on the way.