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Ivy Tech creates Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship

By Mike Leonard 331-4368 |
June 1, 2010

In the spring of 1963, two entrepreneurs named Gayle and Bill Cook started a little medical devices company making catheters and guide wires in their three-bedroom apartment in the Bart Villa complex on Bloomington’s east side.

Today, the Cook Group of companies brings in more than a billion dollars a year in revenue from all over the world and is an international leader in minimally invasive medical products and devices.

Ivy Tech chancellor John Whikehart says he’d love to see that kind of story repeat itself with the launching of the Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship at its Bloomington campus.

The center is being created to provide an entry point for students and the local small business and economic development community to gain and develop the practical application of entrepreneurial skills and ideas. Ivy Tech has named Steve Bryant the center’s executive director.

“Ivy Tech is honored that Gayle and Bill Cook have permitted the center to be named for their countless contributions to our community, region and state, and to their example of the entrepreneurial spirit,” Whikehart said.

The Center’s goal is to distinguish itself from other business schools and programs by its emphasis on practical application of business tools, and seeks participants for noncredit and advising programs who demonstrate the potential for entrepreneurial activity.

The Ivy Tech center will not be competing with Indiana University’s acclaimed entrepreneurial program in the Kelley School of Business, Whikehart said. “I think there are opportunities for us to have conversations with the people at Kelley. Steve Bryant, our executive director, is on their advisory board.”

Ivy Tech’s nascent program is designed to offer direct and hands-on opportunities for students and small business people to start a new business, further develop or expand existing small business or pursue coursework pathways to study and better understand entrepreneurial practices.

The center will be developed using the model that has been successfully implemented in Ivy Tech’s Center for Civic Engagement, Center for Lifelong Learning and Center for Life Sciences. The campus will launch an annual “Cook Institute for Entrepreneurship” modeled on the “O’Bannon Institute for Community Service” and include a day of speeches, panel discussions and other activities.

The center will employ the “three-legged stool” to:
Work with individuals to provide advising, mentoring, planning, post-start-up, and funding referral services.
Incorporate entrepreneurial studies into the curriculum through academic credit certificate and degree programs, as well as short-term non-credit classes.

Create programs to engage the broader community in discussion, recognition and development of entrepreneurial activity.

“Entrepreneurs and the companies they create have long been an economic engine for our region, our state and our nation,” Kem Hawkins, president of Cook Medical, said in a prepared statement. “Steve Bryant has shown that he understands the practical elements that are needed so companies can survive then thrive. Choosing Steve Bryant to lead the Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship is a strong first step for an important educational initiative that is sure to bring opportunity, growth and new jobs to the region for decades to come.”

“The vitality of a community depends in large measure upon its entrepreneurs — the men and women in our society who take the risks and create the companies that in turn lead to jobs and economic vitality,” said Steve Ferguson, chairman of the board of Cook Group, Inc. “Steve Bryant understands that the future of our region depends upon entrepreneurs and the jobs they create for Indiana workers and their families.”

Bryant recently served as business development and marketing manager at BioConvergence. He has extensive experience in business development, small business operations and non-profit and government relations roles. He serves on community and statewide boards and committees including Life Sciences Advisory Board for the IU Kelley School of Business, the Indiana Health Industry Forum, the Bloomington Life Sciences Partnership, Centerstone Research Institute, Region 8 Workforce Board and the Foundation of Monroe County Community Schools.

Ivy Tech’s Bloomington campus focuses on serving residents and businesses in Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Morgan and Owen counties.

Bill Cook, left, is toasted by his wife, Gayle Cook, and Steve Dawson, chair of the board of Bloomington Economic Development Corp., during the BEDC's annual meeting Jan. 11. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times file photo

Copyright: 2010