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Collection 317 Oral History Interview with Ian H. and Ruth E. Cook

Identifier: CN 317

Scope and Contents

Oral history interviews with Ian Harper Cooke and Ruth Eileen (Witmer) Cook, in which Ian describes his childhood and education in South Africa, college education at Wheaton College, training for missionary work, medical missions work in South Africa with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), the Zulus, apartheid, and the national church; and Ruth describes her childhood, conversion, and intention to become a missionary nurse, education at West Suburban Hospital and Wheaton College, joining TEAM, missionary training, Zulu culture, rearing children while a missionary, missionary responsibilities, evaluation of preparation for missionary work. The time period covered by the interviews is 1931-1985.

Ian and Ruth Cook were interviewed separately by Paul Ericksen on October 1, 1985, at their home in Fort Wayne, Indiana; the interview with Ruth Cook was continued at the medical center where the Cooks worked.


  • Created: 1985

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Ian Harper Cook was born in 1933 in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1935, the Cooks moved to Durban, South Africa, where Cook's father served as the pastor of a Baptist congregation. Cook was converted when he was six. While living in Durban, Cook was educated in a private school. In 1945, the family transferred to Pretoria, where his father continued his pastoral work, and Cook completed his grammar school and high school education in a public school. In 1951, after coming to the United States, Cook enrolled at Wheaton College. For his sophmore year, he transferred to Fort Wayne Bible College, where his father was a member of the faculty, and where he could take courses at reduced rates which could be applied to his degree at Wheaton; he returned to Wheaton for his junior and senior years. Through his junior year, Cook was a Bible major; at the beginning of his senior year, he changed his major pre-med. He graduated from Wheaton in 1955. Following his graduation, Cook moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where he worked and took classes at Indiana University in order to meet the requirements for medical school, which he then entered in 1956. He graduated in 1960, and completed his internship in Indianapolis in 1961. In 1957, while a student in medical school, Cook married Ruth Witmer, whom he had met while both were students at Wheaton.

Ruth Witmer was born in 1931 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where her father was a pastor in the Missionary Church denomination and a member of the faculty at Fort Wayne Bible College. She made a commitment to Christ when she was six. Growing up in an environment surrounded by missionary emphasis, she decided when she was twelve that she wanted to work as a missionary nurse. She moved to suburban Chicago in 1950 to study and work at the West Suburban Hospital, then associated with Wheaton College. She completed the nursing program in 1953 and concluded her education with two years of liberal arts study at Wheaton, graduating with a Bachelor's of Nursing degree in 1955. While a student at Wheaton, she worked at an Elgin hospital; during her senior year she was a dorm resident assistant at the College. Following her graduation, she worked for a summer at Wheaton College's Honey Rock Camp in northern Wisconsin, and then became the college nurse and an instructor at Fort Wayne Bible College. Following the Cooks' marriage in 1957, she worked at the Veteran's Hospital Medical Center in Indianapolis until the birth of their second son.

During 1961 and 1962, the Cooks worked on a short term medical project for Moravian mission among the Miskito Indians in rural Honduras along the Nicagraguan border. In 1963, Ian worked as a surgery resident in an Indianapolis hospital, while the couple was awaiting acceptance by The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). They were accepted by TEAM in 1964 and assigned to the Mosvold Mission Hospital in Ingwavuma, Natal, South Africa, a predominantly Zulu area near the Indian Ocean coast. Ian worked as a general practioner in the hospital, while Ruth taught nurses, contributed to work among women, and maintained the home. Following their first term, the Cooks furloughed in 1969 in Fort Wayne, after which they resigned from TEAM. In order to be near Ian's parents and continue his medical education, the Cooks returned to South Africa in 1971 to live in Cape Town, where Ian worked and studied at the University of Cape Town's Groote Schuur Hospital. The Cooks returned to the United States to Fort Wayne in 1976, where he joined a medical practice, in which he was still a partner at the time of the interview.

Ian was born a British citizen. While living in South Africa in the early 1970's, he transferred his citizenship to South Africa. Upon returning to the United States in 1974, he initiated the process to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, which was later completed.

The Cooks had three sons: David, Stephen and John. Ruth died June 6, 2006


5.00 Audio Tapes

242 Minutes

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The materials for this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives from Ian and Ruth Cook in October 1985.

Acc 85-133, 85-134

January 28, 1990

Paul A. Ericksen

C. Easley

Collection 317 Oral History Interview with Ian H. and Ruth E. Cook
Paul Ericksen
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US