Young, Cook Named 2019 Distinguished Alumnae

The SCC Alumni Association honored two new Distinguished Alumni during SCC’s 2019 commencement ceremonies.

The West Burlington Campus Distinguished Alumna is Gayla Riddle Young. The Keokuk Campus Distinguished Aluma is Jodi Cook.

Gayla earned her degree 17 years after graduating from Ft. Madison High School. She went on to earn her bachelor’s in education from Western Illinois University (WIU), graduating magna cum laude.

Galyla Young, 2019 West Burlington Distinguish Alumna

She had learned of her Distinguish Alumna award just a month before her unexpected passing on December 31, 2018.

“She was told she received the honor the week of Thanksgiving,” says Becky Rump, Executive Director for Institutional Advancement. “She was absolutely thrilled.”

Gayla’s sister, Glee Riddle Salladay, spoke on her behalf. Salladay recounted Gayla’s life and educational experience.

“Because of the solid foundation she acquired and learned and obtained from SCC, she was fully prepared and easily able to make that transition to a four-year college,” she told graduates.

Gayla spent her career as a third grade teacher in Danville. With a passion for education that extended beyond her own classroom, she served on the Ft. Madison school board for two terms.

A strong asset to her community, Gayla was the first auxiliary member of the Denmark Volunteer Fire Department serving as Secretary/Treasurer. Her work with the Denmark Betterment Group raised $20,000 for the town’s tornado siren.

Gayla always said that SCC provided her an opportunity to gain a valuable education close to home while raising her children as a single parent. In her eyes, SCC was the stepping stone she needed to fulfill her dream of educating others.

Jodi says a single literature class with SCC professor Tom Gardner inspired her to enroll full-time and earn her associate’s degree at the Keokuk campus.

Twenty-five years ago, Jodi delivered the commencement address to her fellow graduates from the very stage she delivered the keynote address this year.

Jodi Cook, 2019 Keokuk Distinguished Alumna

“That evening, my co-speaker held a sign over my head stating ‘Beware Mr. Gardner, Jodi wants your job!’ That quip became a reality 16 years later when he retired and I was hired. Funny how life works.”

Jodi earned a bachelor’s in English education with a minor in creative writing from WIU, graduating magna cum laude. She went on to receive a master’s in English and writing from WIU.

She shared three goals she set for herself as an adult and encouraged the graduates to keep them in mind as they move forward: respect words, cherish people, and relish life.

Jodi strives to instill these goals in her students through creative exploration and expression. Whether it be works of writing and drama performances, or even the Keokuk Zombie Walk, she is ever inspiring students and the community.

In typical English-professor fashion, Jodi left her graduates with this reminder of the power of words. “In the world we live in today, seek to inspire and be the healer with your words. We rise by lifting others – and it costs us nothing.”

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