‘Leave each place better than you found it’, a notion embodied wholly by former faculty member Dick Cobb. Mr. Cobb, a much beloved teacher, coach, and friend to our community, undeniably changed Taft for the better during his 44 years of time here. He passed away unexpectedly in January, an enormous loss a for a wide array of current and former Taft community members. With the loss of a true Taft hero, faculty and alumni alike reflected on Mr. Cobb’s presence on campus from 1969 to 2013 and the eternal impact he had on Taft, both as an educational institution and as a home to so many faculty.
Explaining Mr. Cobb’s impact at Taft, current Headmaster Mr. MacMullen stated that “Dick Cobb was one of the greatest teachers Taft has ever known. He was amazing at every aspect of his work. His Latin classes were legendary: if you were a student, you knew you would be held accountable, and you would have fun.” Mr. Cobb’s impact extended far beyond classroom walls. Mr. Cobb was an amazingly successful girls’ basketball coach. Mr. Mac expanded further that “as an advisor, he brought wisdom, toughness, and care. As head of the Disciplinary Committee and director of residential life, he embodied fairness and understanding. As a colleague, Mr. Cobb was a mentor and friend to many, and someone always ready to laugh.” Mr. Mac concluded: “When I think of what Taft teaching looks like at its best, I think of Cobb.”
Mr. Cobb was a dear friend to former headmaster, Lance Odden. He shared with me that when Mr. Cobb was first hired, “there was considerable concern that he was too shy to be a great schoolmaster. How misguided that notion was.” In his near-fifty years of time at Taft, “Mr. Cobb was a riveting teacher that brought Latin to life, while inspiring generations of Tafties to love the subject and even more the man.” Mr. Odden continued: “As I had taken Latin IV at Andover, Dick would frequently test my knowledge, often noting that Andover’s standards were clearly not up to Taft’s. I would occasionally attend his classes with trepidation, fearing he might call on me. He never did, but how he made Latin exciting.” As a Latin teacher, Mr. Cobb was engaging. He notoriously kept students on their toes. Mr. Odden was quick to say that “You had to be prepared, as [Mr. Cobb] would look at one students and call on another sitting across the room. Latin was like intellectual ping pong. His record in preparing students for AP exams may never be equalled.”
Mr. Cobb was the faculty mentor to Ms. Duffy when she first arrived at Taft. She shared the following: “I greatly admired [Mr. Cobb] as a colleague. I appreciated him for trusting my teaching ability and giving me gentle guidance to the ins and outs of Taft during my first year. He was the type of colleague that you wanted to make proud with how you interacted with students. Mr. Cobb treated everyone he met with respect and kindness, and he was just a really nice person. I will certainly miss seeing him around campus and up at the golf course.”
As a coach, Mr. Cobb was a super star. He led Taft’s JV Boys Soccer team, the Golf team, and most notably served as the most successful Girls’ Basketball coach in Taft history. During his time spent as Girls’ Basketball coach from 1973 to 2001, he held a record of 297-144. He won “five Founders League titles, seven Referee Association sportsmanship awards,” and was known to be “a classy, tough, demanding, caring, brilliant coach”. As a true Taft competitor, Mr. Cobb proudly held a record for 25 consecutive victories over Hotchkiss.
Mr. Cobb was beloved in the dorms and as an advisor. According to Mr. Odden, it was with Mr. Cobb’s “deeply caring, humanist [qualities] that he left his ultimate mark.” He ran CPT3 for years and served as a Disciplinary Committee member. He advised students, faculty, and Headmasters alike. “His sense of justice was absolutely honest, to the point, delivered often with integrity and great humor. As a result, he was beloved by all, changed the course of many lives, and left our school a better place.”
Thank you to Mr. Cobb for your many years of humor, scholarship, and devotion. It is impossible to imagine what Taft would be without you. It is the dedication of those like Mr. Cobb, those committed tirelessly to Taft, that make our school such a special place.