Giving Students The OCC Advantage

Dave Cook is pictured with a sign announcing the opening of Onondaga Community College in 1962. Cook attended OCC from 1970 to 1972 when it was located downtown in Midtown Plaza. He is giving $25,000 to help students enrolled in the “OCC Advantage” program.

Three years ago Dave Cook began a picture taking expedition. The 1970 Corcoran High School graduate decided he wanted to photograph every place he had ever lived for more than six months. He was taking pictures on the south side of Syracuse when he drove up the hill and walked in unannounced to the office of the OCC Foundation which raises money for students scholarships, programs and projects. “I decided it was time to give back. I made it through as an average or better than average student. I felt it was important to help students like I was.”

Cook’s visit timed perfectly with the creation of OCC Advantage, a unique college-readiness and scholarship program which gives high school students in specific districts the opportunity to attend OCC tuition free should they meet attendance and grade point average requirements and also complete community service. “I call it the ‘Dave Cook solid C, barely B scholarship.’ It’s for those students who don’t qualify for the scholarships the ‘A’ students get but are making the effort and have potential.”

Cook saw himself in those types of students and decided to donate $25,000 to the OCC Advantage program. It was his way of paying it forward and thanking the College for what it had done for him. “OCC was not a fallback college for me. It was the most frugal way for me to get a four-year degree.”

Cook attended OCC from 1970 to 1972 when it was still located in Midtown Plaza. He transferred to SUNY Potsdam where he earned a degree in Political Science. Cook would go on to manage Social Security Administration offices in Syracuse, Rochester, Corning, Plattsburgh, Ithaca, Schenectady and Geneva for 30 years until he retired.

Throughout his professional career volunteering was a big part of who Cook was. “One of my first bosses told me ‘you’re going to join the Rotary.’ That’s when it all started.’” Cook was on so many boards he received the national award for Volunteer of the Year. Today he’s still a member of the Rotary where he will play Santa Claus on the Santa Train. He’s also a member of the Sons and Daughters of Italy and refers to himself as ‘the only bagpiping Scotsman member.’

Cook is happy to keep helping whether the benefactors are civic minded organizations or students at his alma mater. “Everyone can afford to be the nice guy, give back and help the next generation. What kids are paying for an education today is absolutely insane. OCC was my plan to get an education without taking out loans. I graduated from college without any debt.”

The OCC Foundation wishes to extend a thank you to Dave Cook for his generosity. You can learn more about supporting students through our Believe In Better fundraising campaign here.