Gayle Cook. Photo by Shannon Zahnle


With a foot in the past and an eye on the future, the Monroe County History Center (MCHC) has established a scholarship fund for local students, allowing teachers to bring them to the history center for tours and workshops at little or no cost. 

“When you study your history, you’re more invested in your community,” says Susan Dyar, director of the MCHC. “When you know the history of your community, you care more.” 

The Gayle Cook Junior Historian Scholarship Fund was presented to Cook as a birthday gift to celebrate her nearly 40 years as an MCHC supporter and volunteer. In 1980, Cook spearheaded the committee to save the historic Carnegie Library, where the MCHC is currently housed. Today, she continues to raise money for history center activities. 

The need-based scholarship will provide funding for museum admission, tour guides, workshop materials, and school bus transportation for Monroe County schools and summer camps. 

MCHC workshops—with titles such as “ABCs of Monroe County” and “Monroe County in the Civil War”—often correspond to subjects students are learning about in school. The hands-on workshops let students interact with historical items and make themed crafts. Workshops can accommodate about 30 students, but the MCHC staff can divide groups between guided tours and workshops to accommodate up to 100 students at a time.

For teachers who are unable to bring students to the museum, located at 202 E. 6th St., the scholarship also provides free or discounted access to the history center’s Time Travel Trunks. The trunks—with themes such as “World War II & Monroe County” and “Indiana’s Native Americans”—include books, costumes, music, games, and craft materials. 

Scholarship namesake Gayle Cook, who co-founded medical device company Cook Group with her late husband, Bill, says she hopes the scholarship will spark the joy of learning in local students. “It’s part of education to learn about the past and learn about the people of the past,” Cook says. “We have things in the museum that allow us to teach about our community.”

To donate to the scholarship fund, visit the museum, call 812-332-2517, or visit