Maureen Belden - Executive Director of the Guilford Art Center

I went to North Farmington High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan. I had this amazing teacher named Dean Cobb. I’m sure that many of his students would tell you the same story: He was legendary and super inspirational. He taught public speaking, radio/tv/film, and acting. He was the coach of the Forensics Team and director of all the theater productions.

It was in “Cobb’s” classes that I discovered I actually had some talent for something I didn’t know I had. Some of us were like groupies--we took every class, did Forensics, joined the Radio Club, and did plays. I developed confidence in getting up in front of a crowd. I was actually a very shy person, and Cobb helped me realize for the first time that I was good at this, that I was articulate, and that I was a good writer. It really did change my life because I went from being shy to a more confident person.

I went to high school in the late 1970s and it was very divided by social group. There were the jocks, the burn-outs, and the rest of us. Everybody in that high school took Cobb’s classes. One annual assignment was a music pantomime--all these different types of kids would come together and make good-natured fools of themselves; there were costumes (lotsa Elton John), posturing, air guitar. It was a great leveler. Some kids who were totally cool, kings-of-the-school would be humbled, and some of the nerdy kids were really talented. That type of coming together really didn’t happen otherwise in my high school.

Some of my high school friends and I still tell really funny stories about what happened in those classes. I can’t even begin to tell you! But they were hilarious and formative experiences. Working with Cobb was as important to me socially as academically. We learned stuff—the rules of debate, who Stanislavsky was, how to make a short film, and we watched classic movies. But many of “the rest of us” also found our social group (Theater “Maunts,” we were called; there were “Band Maunts,” too; this has to be a term unique to my high school). Cobb was like the coach for the non-sporty kids. Which felt important. Because he was involved in so many extracurricular activities, he reminds me of Ms. Mulqueen, because the students’ connection with him was more than just during school hours.

He was a great guy, and more than just a teacher.  He was a mentor.