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Presidential tenure


Biographical Data

Personal: 1820-1901, b. King William County, Virginia.

Education: Virginia Baptist Seminary (later Richmond College); M.A. Columbian College (later George Washington University), 1840.

Family: Wife: Susanna Virginia Pleasants; Children: Joseph James, Leila Virginia, Sallie Lewis, Mary Susan, Rose Pleasants, Charles Henry, Martha Louisa, Lucian H., and Elizabeth N.

Previous Employment: Richmond College, Mathematics Professor, Dining Hall Manager, ca. 1840-1846.


  • Cocke is considered the founder of Hollins University, even though he did not arrive at Hollins until 1846. His predecessor, Joshua Bradley, left Hollins in the hands of a board of trustees, in 1845.
  • Arranged for religious education of slaves.
  • Helped establish local churches, both black and white.
  • Never received a salary. Due to the large debt owed him, Cocke eventually allowed the board to give him the institute as payment.
  • Helped to establish and fund a Baptist orphanage in Salem.

Events that took place during tenure

  • Assumed position of superintendent on July 1, 1846.
  • Construction: East, Sulphur Springhouse, Main, Bradley, Sandusky, Parsonage, Carvin, Botetourt, West.
  • Academic Changes: Eliminated male department; established high academic standards and set a goal to provide the same training for women as men, a first for women’s education in Virginia.
  • John and Ann Hollins donated $5,000 to the school, inspiring its renaming to Hollins Institute.
  • Alumnae Association established 1896; first literary magazine and first Spinster published.


College and University Presidents