Albert S. Cook

Albert S. Cook

Dr. Albert Samuel Cook served as Maryland State Superintendent of Schools from 1920 to 1942. During his tenure he implemented several changes in the state teacher education system that helped build the modern K-12 school system. The Albert S. Cook Library at Towson University is named in his honor. 

Cook was born in Greencastle, Pennsylvania in 1873, and attended Cumberland Valley State Normal School, Gettysburg College, and Princeton, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1895 and a master's in 1896. He went on to do postgraduate coursework at Columbia University from 1904-1908. 

He began his teaching career in Pennsylvania at age 16, before going on to become principal of the Bel Air Academy and Grade School in Maryland from 1895 to 1898, and then principal of Franklin High School in Reisterstown from 1898 to 1900. He was then appointed superintendent of Baltimore County Schools. 

He served as president of the Maryland State Teachers’ Association in 1908 and served as Maryland State Supervisor of Public Instruction until becoming State Superintendent of Schools from 1920 to 1942. During his time as superintendent, he headed the transition of state “normal schools” into state teacher’s colleges. This included the Maryland State Normal School at Towson, which became the State Teachers College at Towson in 1935.  

According to a January 24, 1942 Baltimore Sun article, Cook also “saw the enactment of the equalization fund law, the raising of standards of teaching, the establishment of the teachers’ retirement system, the lengthening of the term of elementary teacher preparation from two to four years, and a new teachers’ salary scale which became effective in 1939.”1

These changes meant all students across the state received the same standard of education and amount of educational funding regardless of  county. These changes also gave prospective teachers more robust training by allowing teacher education schools to grant baccalaureate degrees. 

He also believed the customary practice of leaving school at 16 was too young, and advocated for public schools to teach all grades K-12. 

“...beyond question exerted a most important liberalizing influence on teaching in the United States.”
- Jesse H. Newton, Head of Lincoln School, New York, School Executive Magazine, 1935.2

He received several honorary degrees during this tenure as superintendent, including from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) in 1923, St. John’s College, Annapolis in 1924, the University of Maryland in 1924, and Gettysburg College in 1937. 

Cook died on March 11, 1952. The Albert S. Cook Library at the Maryland State Teacher’s College at Towson was dedicated on September 19, 1957. 

A portrait of Cook, painted in 1940 by artist Stanislav Rembski, was gifted to the Maryland State Department of Education by county school superintendents, school supervisors, State Teachers’ College presidents, and State Department of Education staff.3 It was hung in the Department of Education office on Lexington Street, and now hangs at the entrance to main floor of the Albert S. Cook Library at Towson University. 

written by Allison Fischbach, Research and Archives Associate, Spring 2022
research by Felicity Knox, Archives Associate, Spring 2022

Futher reading:

  1. "Cook, state school system head, will retire March 1 after holding post more than two decades Dr. Thomas G. Puller, Jr., assistant, appointed as his successor." (1942, Jan 24). The Sun (1837-)
  2. "Albert S. Cook rites are set: Funeral for veteran educator to be held Friday." (1952, Mar 12).The Sun (1837-)
  3. "Cook honored on anniversary: His portait presented to State Board of Education by associates head of Maryland schools oberserved fourty years as administrator." (1940, Oct 26). The Sun (1837-)