Cook, Young Named SCC 2019 Distinguished Alumnae


Southeastern Community College will host receptions for this year’s Distinguished Alumnae honorees prior to the May 2019 graduation ceremonies.

Keokuk 2019 Distinguished Alumna Jodi Cook will be honored at a reception at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15 at the Pilot Grove Savings Bank Community Room in Keokuk.

West Burlington 2019 Distinguished Alumna, the late Gayla Riddle Young, will be represented by her sister Glee Riddle Salladay and honored at a reception at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 16 in Banquet Room C at Burlington Memorial Auditorium.

Cook and Salladay will present keynote speeches during their respective 7 p.m. commencements.

Cook says a single literature class with professor Tom Gardner inspired her to enroll full-time and earn an associate’s at SCC’s Keokuk campus in 1994. She then earned a bachelor’s in English education in 1996 from Western Illinois University, graduating magna Cum Laude with a minor in Creative Writing and was chosen as the English/Journalism Departmental Scholar. In 1999, she received a Master of Arts in English and Writing from Western Illinois University (WIU).  

Cook began her career as a full-time English and writing professor at WIU and worked as an adjunct instructor in English and speech at Carl Sandburg College. In 2010, she realized her dream of returning to SCC as an English professor and drama club advisor.

She quickly became a catalyst for many activities that have motivated students to learn, building their talents and self-confidence. Cook spearheaded the drama and theater programming that has spanned both campuses and worked with students as a director of several performances.

Cook is also a recipient of the Outstanding Leadership and Community Service Award from Phi Theta Kappa and is the creator and organizer of the annual Keokuk Zombie Walk.

In the community, Cook is a member of the Keokuk Rocks the Arts Committee and also serves on the Keokuk Fine Arts Council. She currently holds the office of Chair for the SCC Alumni Association.

Gayla Riddle Young was a non-traditional college student, earning her degree from SCC in 1990, seventeen years after graduating from Ft. Madison High School. She went on to graduate magna cum laude from Western Illinois University in 1992, earning a bachelor’s in education. She completed additional study at Drake University.

Young spent her career as a full-time third grade teacher in Danville in 1994. She was instrumental in establishing a summer school enrichment program in the town to promote the fine arts.

Her passion for education was clear, as she served as Vice President of the Fort Madison school board and was elected to the board for two terms.

A strong asset to her community, Young held the honor of being the first auxiliary member for the Denmark Volunteer Fire Department and was its most recent Secretary/Treasurer. Her work on the Denmark Betterment Group helped raise $20,000 for the town’s tornado siren.

Young believed that SCC provided her with an opportunity to gain a valuable education close to home while raising her children as a single parent. In her mind, SCC offered the stepping stone to a life career of educating others.

Salladay will travel from Virginia to represent her sister.

Both pre-graduation receptions are open to the public and include hot and cold hors d’oeuvres and beverages for a free will donation.

For reservations, call the SCC Alumni Association Office at (319) 208-5062 by May 13 or email

For more news or to learn about Southeastern Community College, visit: