Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lake County Profiles: Ann C. Whitman, Confidential Secretary

Ann C. Cook was born in 1908 in Perry, Ohio.  At the time of her death in 1991, Ann C. Whitman's career had become the subject of Robert Donovan's 1988 best selling biography 'Confidential Secretary'.  What had began as an Antioch College work study program to N.Y., led her to secretarial career stops that included not only Mrs. David Levy, whose husband was a founder of Sears, Roebuck and Company, but also the 34th U.S. President, and a N.Y. Governor / U.S. Vice President.

In 1929, Ann C. Cook left for N.Y.C. to assume a secretarial internship for the wife of Sears, Roebuck and Company founder David Levy.  Ann never returned to Antioch College in Ohio.  She remained in the position of secretary for Mrs. Levy for the next 16 years.  Married in 1941, her next career step presented itself during her position with Radio Free Europe after WWII.  Ann was recruited by Dwight D. Eisenhower's Campaign Staff to be his personal campaign secretary.  This led to her appointment as his White House secretary for the next eight years when Eisenhower became the 34th U. S. President. She managed all his correspondence and was responsible for his personal files and letters kept in his White House office.  This amounted to thousands of letters monthly.  In 1961, she followed Eisenhower to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  She remained in his employ through the establishment of his farm as a National Historic Site.

A second marriage and a brief return to the corporate world led her to her final secretarial position.  She was hired to be the personal secretary to N.Y. Governor Nelson Rockefeller.  Later, she followed him to Washington D.C. when he became the U.S. Vice President under Gerald Ford.  Ann C. Whitman retired in 1977.  As mentioned earlier, journalist Robert Donovan sought Ann out in 1988 and released a biography titled Confidential Secretary in the same year.  Ann C. Cook of Perry, Ohio may have left Lake County in 1929, but her life's story has become yet another hidden gem in the ever increasing history of Ohio's smallest county.

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