Thelma Cook

Dear Colleagues,

It is with sadness that I share that Professor Emerita Thelma Cook, a deeply valued educator, alumna, leader, and community member, passed away on June 22, 2023.

An alumna of the UBC Faculty of Education, Thelma graduated from UBC’s first teaching class in secondary education, receiving her BEd in 1958. From 1958 to 1971, Thelma worked as a high school teacher in Vancouver, Edmonton, and West Vancouver. In the early 1970s, Thelma completed two MA degrees from Stanford University, in Curriculum & Teacher Education and Cultural Anthropology, followed by her PhD in Anthropology and Education, also from Stanford University, which was conferred in 1975. Thelma began at UBC in July 1974 as an Instructor in the Department of Social and Educational Studies – which later amalgamated into the current Department of Educational Studies (EDST) – and moved into the role of Assistant Professor in January 1975.

At UBC, Thelma built a career distinguished by her persistent efforts to make education more accessible to Indigenous students. She served as the second Director of our Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NITEP) from 1977 through 1980, just three years after the program began. In this role, Thelma was active in fundraising for scholarships, awards, and bursaries for Indigenous students. Thelma also served on UBC Senate as a representative for the Faculty of Education from 1982 through 1987. In addition to an extensive career of teaching, research, and service within UBC, Thelma was an active member of her community, marked by far-reaching contributions and dedication in both the education and healthcare sectors.

Following her retirement in 1997, Thelma maintained deep and ongoing connections at UBC. She served as President of the UBC Association of Professors Emeritus (now the UBC Emeritus College), on the Dean’s External Advisory Board for the Faculty of Education, and on the UBC President’s Advisory Committee on Campus Enhancement. Furthermore, Thelma volunteered at graduation ceremonies, including the honour of carrying the UBC mace, and continued to take courses to advance her own education. She generously contributed to UBC, having established the Sharp Family NITEP Graduation Prize and the Thelma Sharp Cook Scholarship. In 1997, Thelma was honoured with the Faculty Community Service Award from the UBC Alumni Association, and in 2019, Thelma received the Alumni Builder Award in the Faculty of Education. Through all these contributions and achievements, Thelma leaves a long-lasting legacy of meaningful contributions to NITEP, EDST, the Faculty of Education, and UBC. She will be sorely missed. To honour Thelma, UBC will hold a flag-lowering on Thursday, July 13, 2023.

Thelma is survived by her husband, Don Cook. We will join Don in grieving this loss to our community. If you wish to send condolences to Don, please email or, who will provide you with his contact information. Thelma’s obituary can be found at this link and a celebration of life will be announced and held at a later date.

Dr. Jan Hare, Dean pro tem