Dr. Gerald Cockrell, Terre Haute, IN, has been named a co-recipient of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association’s 2020 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Dr. Cockrell is a 1973 graduate of Danville Junior College.
As president of the DACC Alumni Association, Dr. Cockrell is a shining example of the greater impact community colleges have on the communities we serve. Having tried college once, and with four years of military service during the Vietnam War under his belt, Jerry Cockrell returned home determined to get some sort of college degree. Danville Junior College – now Danville Area Community College –significantly impacted his future when he enrolled in the electronics program and found his life’s niche.
“That two-year experience provided me the confidence to do almost anything,” he remembers. “With only one week to go before graduation, and with no clue as to what would come next, Prof. Marion Blackburn asked me what I would do after graduation. When I responded that I didn’t have a clue, he mentioned the electronics program at Indiana State University. After a visit to campus, I enrolled at ISU.”
Dr. Cockrell and three of his fellow DJC electronics graduates were the first of many students who transferred to ISU from what was previously considered a terminal-degree vocational program. They laid the foundation for one of the first 2 + 2 partnerships for career programs between DACC and area universities.
After several years in industry, and a return to education, Dr. Cockrell retired as a Professor of Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology from Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana in 2012. Since retiring, he has continued to teach in the Ivy Tech Community College system.
Dr. Cockrell is a recognized international leader in the development and delivery of internet-based process control and automation programs and courses. He is a pioneer in the design and development of distance delivery of real-time laboratory experience.
In 2017, Dr. Cockrell was among a handful of alumni who attended a gathering scheduled after the annual Honor’s program to organize a new DACC Alumni Association. He volunteered to lead the new Association as its President. Understanding that a little encouragement can go a long way toward giving a student the confidence he or she needs to be successful, Dr. Cockrell and his wife Jan established the Dr. Gerald W. Cockrell Scholarship fund with an endowment to the DACC Foundation. This fund awards an annual scholarship of $500 to a student who has overcome life obstacles and is looking to make a difference in their life and community.
“In my entire academic career as a professor, the one thing that brought me great joy was when a graduate would return to campus or write me a note thanking me for being a professor who impacted their life” he says. “That is a huge reward for anyone who pursues the teaching field. I guess with this scholarship, we will in a small way impact lives of students who are searching for future success and happiness.”
Typically, the ICCTA would confer this State-wide award to Dr. Cockrell in person at ICCTA's June banquet. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the DACC Board and the ICCTA will recognize Dr. Cockrell during the Nov. 19, 2020, meeting.