The educational journey of Walker Cosgrove

Anna Veltkamp-Staff Writer

His office is filled with books: four large cases line the walls, each case so full with books that the texts overflow to a table behind his desk. With classical music playing in the background, family photos covering his file cabinet and a chalkboard with his daughter’s drawing of a cat sitting behind his desk, Walker Cosgrove and his office space demonstrate an embrace of Dordt College with signs of a life outside of Dordt. Scattered throughout his office, these artifacts evidence the beautiful reality of how one’s past experiences play out in their current, and future, roles. These artifacts – this office – show the life of Walker Cosgrove.

Cosgrove grew up in a home that valued education, he said. Cosgrove’s father taught as a professor at Taylor University, and Professor Cosgrove encouraged young Walker to keep a book in his hands, teaching him to explore a wide range of disciplines, too.

A house filled with learning was normal for Cosgrove, and he laments the growing scarcity of such home styles. Cosgrove values the role of education in his house today, and he and his wife encourage his daughter’s curiosity of life through reading and exploration of nature.

During his childhood, Cosgrove said that his perception of his life changed during a summer sleepover. After spending a Wednesday night at a friend’s house, Cosgrove was surprised to find that his friend’s father worked during the summer.

“‘Where’s your dad?’ [I asked,] and he said that his dad had to go to work. …that was the first time when it clicked that my dad, my world, is different than most kids’.”

Because his dad had holidays off, being a professor was always in the back of his mind.

Cosgrove said that he hadn’t necessarily wanted to become a professor like his dad, but that he also didn’t know what he wanted to do. During Cosgrove’s sophomore year at Taylor University, he became a history major. He still hesitated on becoming a professor, but by senior year he decided to apply for grad school to pursue teaching.

The first day of Cosgrove’s freshman year at Taylor stands as one of his college highlights, a memory that involves his father.

“I remember [him saying] I should be careful because he could embarrass me,” Cosgrove said. “I [wore] something ridiculous – like ‘Okay, if you want to do this, let’s do this’ – and on the first day of class… I walk all the way to the front of this 150 student class and give him a big hug and a kiss, and I say ‘I think I’m winning 1-0 right now’ and he just said ‘the game can be over’.”

Needless to say, this history professor felt as if he had defeated his father in the match.

College wasn’t all jokes for Cosgrove, however. He had some serious time to grapple with questions on God and his identity as a Christian, and as a human. Cosgrove said he appreciated learning to think more holistically at college, a trait he hopes his students will learn here, as well.

To Cosgrove, college is a time to have fun, to be serious and to learn who one might be as a person.

“Don’t’ make [college] only about the classroom, don’t make it only about a sport or music and don’t make it only about having fun” Cosgrove said. “College really ought to be about becoming more human, figuring out who you are. So try to be broadly involved in a variety of activities, including curricular and co-curricular, but without spreading yourself too thin. That should give you some free time to really just dig into, ‘Who am I?,’, ‘Why am I here?’, etc.”

Cosgrove advises students to ask the tough questions, the ones beyond just getting a job.

Part of asking these tough questions spills over into his Dordt life. With an office filled with books, Cosgrove maintains his childhood love of reading as he reads both for Dordt classes and for his own interest.

“I don’t get as much time now [during the academic year], so in the summer time I will read 120-200 books,” he said. Reading is relevant to his position at Dordt, yet Cosgrove also feels it is a vital part of who he is.

Overwhelmed by the task of naming his favorite books, Cosgrove listed a few authors that he enjoys reading: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Marilynne Robinson and various poets including Adam Zagierski and Wendell Berry.

In terms of other art forms, Cosgrove often listens to classical, as well as jazz, music.

“I really like Bach, and Beethoven… Miles Davis would be my favorite for jazz, probably.”

In the next year, Cosgrove will travel to northern Italy for a CORE class taught by himself and Professor Matthews. The class will focus on the Italian Renaissance. On his own time, however, Cosgrove would like to travel to Ireland, Sweden, the Middle East and southern Italy.

These future travels will feed Cosgrove’s love of the outdoors. Outside of college experiences and his job at Dordt, Cosgrove stays active in the outdoors. Whether it is grilling, gardening, walking, riding a bike, reading, or even working, the outdoors are his domain.

“If the weather’s even remotely warm enough that my fingers aren’t freezing cold,” he said, “I will be outside.” He said that if he can do any of these things with his family, the outdoor experience is even better.

“We homeschool. …[We] try to avoid digital technology as much as possible, and [we] encourage being outside and playing. So we don’t watch a lot of TV, [my daughter] is never on a device or a computer and instead of either exploring [or] playing outside,” his daughter will have “imaginative play” inside, or will be reading, Cosgrove said.

His family is very important to him. Cosgrove said he gives his daughter the same childhood experiences that he had in regards to educational encouragement.

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