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Former Michigan Education Association president Steven Cook died on Tuesday after battling a non-COVID-19 illness, union officials announced Wednesday.

Cook, president from 2011 to 2017, was the first education-support professional to serve as president of Michigan’s largest school employee union. Cook also served as the union’s secretary-treasurer and later vice president, totaling 26 years of leadership of MEA and Michigan’s educators.

A community-school liaison for the Lansing Public Schools, Cook also served as the local president of the Lansing Educational Assistants prior to becoming an MEA state officer.

MEA president Paula Herbart said Cook was a fierce believer in the collective power of both public education and unions to change lives.

“He was a resolute leader who always stood up for what he believed was right for school employees and students," Herbart said. "His loyalty – to both his union and to those lucky enough to call him a friend – was his trademark."

Cook, 63, is survived by his wife, Sarah, and son, Wayne.

Sen. Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said Cook believed in the mission of public education and knew the best way to educate children was to empower their educators.

"When I was a teacher in the classroom, I always knew that Steve had my back and was fighting to make sure educators were supported and organized together," Ananich said. "Our hearts are with Steve’s family and the education community as they reflect on his life and legacy.”

jchambers@detroitnews.com

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