Bernice Cook, an accounts receivable representative, has been keeping the books straight for everyone from students to retirees since 1975. Described as the “matriarch” of Financial and Accounting Services because of her long tenure, integrity and work ethic, she was named one of the University’s Employees of the Year in October.
How long have you been at Wake Forest?
35 years; even on some weekends my car wants to come toward Wake Forest instead of where I intend to go. My first job was in the Alumni Office working for Bob Mills. I used a MTST machine, which recorded a letter. Then I typed in the name and address to who the letter was to be mailed. A button was pushed, the letter would print out, then the letter was mailed. After five months, I started working in the Treasurer’s Office, which became the Controller’s Office, and now the Financial and Accounting Services Office, Student Financial Services.
What do you do?
The Student Financial Services Office takes pride in our excellent customer service. We value each customer. That is why we are all here. I help answer questions from students and parents about student accounts and keep each student’s account accurate. If something on their account is not correct, I find out why and correct their account. I also keep a look out for anything that may be wrong. Another responsibility is charging housing rent to students who pay monthly.
I am also responsible for charging retirees’ insurance premiums each month and answering their questions. I have been acquainted with a lot of the retirees and it is easy working with them. I have never gotten bored at my job. I enjoy the things I do. I am a person who can work on several things at one time and still stay focused.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
I enjoy the interaction with the students and my co-workers. When I come to work every day I first turn on my computer. I then look out of my window and see the American flag. I thank the Lord that I have had the health, opportunity and freedom to be in a job that has given me satisfaction of being able to do the kind of work I enjoy and for the knowledge and courage for any challenges that may have to be faced that day.
How did you end up at Wake Forest?
I first started my work career working for a photographic shop in Bristol, Va. We relocated to Richmond, Va., and I went to work at Grace Furniture Store as head bookkeeper. After four months there, we relocated again to Winston-Salem, and I went to work for JA Vance, a company on Indiana Avenue which made big saw mill equipment for companies in Boise, Idaho. Then I worked at an optical wholesale place doing their bookwork and payroll for four years for half days. I had three children and I took them to school before I went to work, then picked them up after school.
I did not work for awhile, and when my children were becoming teenagers, I was ready to go back to work. I had two job offers the same day. One was with Dixie Concrete in the office as part time and the other was with Wake Forest full time. I chose Wake Forest since I wanted to work full time and maybe my children would have the opportunity to get a college education. I also liked the pretty campus and the peacefulness, which you could feel like a breath of fresh air. Since I have been here, I have seen a lot of changes on campus. A lot of buildings have been erected through my many years here. A lot of different schools added to the university, divinity for example, and a huge increase in students.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I have flower gardens with all kinds of flowers. I also do flower arrangements. I make the flowers out of ribbon and I also use silk flowers. Henry (my husband) and I also put out a vegetable garden every year. I put up a lot of green beans (process in canning jars) and corn. I have grandchildren that love my green beans. I also piece quilts and other kinds of sewing.
My husband, Henry, is a retired minister after 42 years pastoring churches around Winston-Salem. I have three grown children, Jeff, Barry and Terry West. Jeff is in construction in Winston-Salem. Barry is an optician who lives in Dobson, N.C. Terry is in the US Air Force and lives in Washington, D.C. I have seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.