In Depth

PAPS Officer Wendy Cogswell: Teacher at Heart

Wendy Cogswell is best known on campus for her smiling face as she ushers students across the road for All-School Meeting and her cameo appearance in last fall’s Grasshopper Night, but Officer Wendy, as she is often called by students, believes she was destined to be a teacher. Cogswell, the Community Relations Officer for Phillips Academy Public Safety (PAPS), grew up in Tewksbury, MA, a neighboring town of Andover. Her mother was a teacher. “I was very influenced by education,” said Cogswell. She also said about when she was younger, “I didn’t have a direct career path.” After graduating high school in 1976, Cogswell participated in a nursing program and became a nurse, but left to be a police dispatcher. After her job as a police dispatcher, Cogswell worked at a security business for several years. When the business went bankrupt, she found, on a whim, an advertisement for a similar job at Andover. This month will mark Cogswell’s eleventh year at Phillips Academy. One of Cogswell’s high school teachers inspired her to go into the security field. Cogswell said, “When I was in high school, I had a civics teacher who was passionate about public policy. I came back to what I really love: education. She was a motivator for you to be interested in what’s happening around you.” Not only does Cogswell believe that she fulfills the ideals of her high school teacher with her current profession, she also is very involved in various community service opportunities. On campus, Cogswell is an advisor for the EMARC swimming and Lazarus House programs through the Community Service Office. She emphasized the importance of being involved in one’s community and the importance of grassroots efforts. Cogswell, a survivor of breast cancer, is on a local committee for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, an annual walk to support research with the American Cancer Society. She is also involved with many other walks for breast cancer charities as well. As a child, Cogswell always dreamt of being a teacher. She said, “I’m pretty close to what I wanted to do…Being on public safety, I am a teacher. I am getting in my teaching part.” She cited her direct involvement with students during bike registration and safety conversations as well as with the students she does community service with. Cogswell’s job has changed significantly since she began her profession in security. At her previous job, women had just started entering the field and held more clerical jobs. “When I first started in this field, it wasn’t considered a woman’s job,” said Cogswell. Being a woman in a male- dominated profession has not affected Cogswell, however. She said that her colleagues at Andover have always been respectful of her. “I love [being a woman on PAPS]. It’s a challenge, but it’s a fabulous opportunity. I get the same respect as everybody else. I don’t think there’s a gender line.” In Cogswell’s past 11 years at Andover, the role of PAPS has changed quite a bit. She said that PAPS does not exist to avoid lawsuits and added, “You always have to tread lightly and make sure that you dot your i’s and cross your t’s. It is a pretty crazy society.” During Cogswell’s time at Andover, she believes the attacks on September 11, 2001, changed the way the community saw PAPS. Although PAPS did not significantly change their policies, Cogswell thought that more members of the community realized the importance of PAPS on campus. Cogswell said, “9/11 changed our job. It made us a little more aware of our surroundings. It was a help to us. A lot of people opened their eyes.” In her role as Community Relations Officer, Cogswell is in charge of bike safety and interacting with the community. During the rest of the time, Cogswell patrols the campus. PAPS is in charge of enforcing school rules. While they can’t arrest anyone, they can ask them to stay for the police. Cogswell said, “We have a great working position with the Andover Police.” Cogswell said during her time at Andover there have not been any major security concerns. She said, “It’s been pretty status quo.” She said, “This job is fulfilling. I’m very happy here.” Cogswell does not plan on retiring soon. She said, “[When I retire], I just want to travel and go places I haven’t been before.” Cogswell lives in Manchester, New Hampshire with her two dogs. She also has a brother who still lives in Tewksbury.