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Keynote Speaker

Commencement Speaker

Weston F. Cook Jr., Ph.D.


Dr. Weston CookIf history is about telling stories, Dr. Weston Cook is a master storyteller. With a passion for his subject matter and his students, Dr. Cook was named, by the Board of Governors of the 17-campus University North Carolina system, the recipient of the 2014 Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

The winners of the award receive a bronze medallion and a cash award and preside as University Marshal over ceremonial events at the university during the academic year. 

Over the course of Dr. Cook’s 20-year career in the History Department, the Middle East scholar has continued to captivate students and colleagues alike with his dynamic, compelling teaching style while enlightening them in the histories of the Ottoman Empire, India, Iran, Africa, Medieval Europe, Islamic civilizations and the pre-modern and modern Middle East. 

Dr. Cook says his lectures are designed “to give color and life to the past on the terms of those who lived it at the time. I would give students a sense that what happens in the world really matters to us. That is just one of the gifts of history – it illuminates.” 

He supports his students’ progress at every step in their development, which is evident in the generous office hours he maintains for students. “I am willing to tutor, mentor, advise or help in any way I can, but students have to come see me. We do a tremendous amount of work to help students succeed.” 

Like many of UNC Pembroke’s students, Dr. Cook was a first generation college student. As an undergraduate, he joined the ROTC at the University of New Hampshire. After earning two master’s degrees at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, Dr. Cook went on active duty, eventually joining Defense Intelligence where he engaged in the Foreign Affairs Officer program, learned Arabic and was stationed in Morocco. While there, he spent time in libraries that contributed to his doctoral dissertation and book, “The Hundred Year War for Morocco: Gunpowder and the Military Revolution in the Early Modern Muslim World.” 

A Ph.D. from Georgetown University in Middle East and Islamic history in 1989 was followed by a stint teaching at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 1992, Dr. Cook retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel with 21 years of service. He accepted an appointment at UNCP in 1994 and is now a full professor. 

Long valued in the university community for his work in the classroom, with students and in the community, Dr. Cook is a three-time recipient of UNCP’s Outstanding Teaching Award and a recipient of the Adolph L. Dial Award for Community Service. 

Dr. Cook is faculty advisor to the Student Veterans Association and was a recipient of the UNCP Student Veteran Association Faculty Appreciation Award. He is a dedicated and prolific scholar with dozens of papers, articles, book chapters and reviews and presentations to his credit. 

“UNC Pembroke’s History Department is wonderful, and I love my colleagues,” he said. “I love being in Pembroke, and it’s wonderful to earn this reward.”