OREM -- Two recently donated statues of deer standing guard on the eastern edge of Utah Valley State College's campus are safe for now.
Why the relief? The school's so-called "art vigilante" is leaving campus."Gil Cook has promised to leave them alone," President Kerry D. Romesburg quipped at a recent trustee meeting that mutated at times into a roast of the retiring vice president of college relations.
Cook's order to dismantle a $17,000 metal sculpture on the school's plaza several years ago raised a furor with the artist and made for colorful headlines and broadcast news accounts for several days.
Despite Cook's insistence the sculpture was removed for repairs, irked artists gave Cook the "art vigilante" moniker before taking away the sculpture. After 38 years in public education, the art debacle remains Cook's most remembered "contribution" by those in higher education circles.
A day before leaving his post, the Los Angeles native recalled the incident with a chuckle. Wednesday is Cook's official last day as the college's point man in dealing with the press, parking, building construction and maintenance and campus events and security.
Another top UVSC adviser, Dick Chappell, vice president of administration and institutional advancement, also retires today. He has been at the school since 1982.
Cook, though, will continue to work part time, heading the school's lobbying effort during the legislative session.
He plans to spend the last eight hours as vice president saying goodbye to colleagues at the college he has seen grow from a 2,900-student vocational school to the fastest growing college in Utah's System of Higher Education. The school last year attracted 18,000 students.
During his 18 years at UVSC, he has witnessed the construction of a 200-acre campus and the completion of the Mountain Applied Technology Building. He's also watched the school slowly alter its mission from a technical school to a community college to a state college that offers four-year degrees.
"We will really miss Gil's dedication to making UVSC an integral part of the community," said Romesburg, the last of three presidents Cook has advised. "He has led the way in bringing events to our campus and building relationships with state and community leaders."
Take, for example, the $54 million UVSC received by lawmakers this year, which will pay for a new technology building. After Gov. Mike Leavitt left the proposed building off his recommendation, Cook and Romesburg launched a lobby effort with legislators to secure funding.
They walked away with the most money of any of the state's nine colleges and universities.
"We had a good year," agreed Cook. He also was instrumental in securing last-minute funding in the 1996 for a $3.4 million road project that included a hook ramp and roundabout on College Drive.
"His work with the Legislature has resulted in additional support and facilities for our college, and for that the entire community owes him thanks," Romesburg said.
Cook started his career in 1960 teaching English, math and social studies in Whittier, Calif. He's since worked as a teacher in the Davis School District, principal at South Sevier High School and principal, director of training and associate superintendent for the Saudi Arabia International Schools.
"It has been such a refreshing professional challenge to be involved in the growth and stature of this institution," he said. "I think with the dynamic leadership that we have at this school the future is unlimited and I look forward to watching it continue to blossom."