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Jan H. Kok (1942-2002)

08 February 2002

It is with great sorrow that the World Council of Churches (WCC) shares the news that its publisher, Jan H. Kok, died on 7 February 2002 at the age of 59, after a long and courageous struggle with cancer.

A member of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, Jan H. Kok devoted almost half his professional life to the WCC and the ecumenical movement. He joined the WCC as publications manager in 1973. In 1980 he was appointed deputy director of the Department of Communication, in addition to his role as publications manager. In 1987 he took over as Communication director and held that title until January 1999 when he returned to his first love - publishing - as publisher of WCC Publications and coordinator of the Publication and Documentation team.

Born into a Dutch publishing family, Jan H. Kok began learning his trade in early childhood. He loved to talk about the many hours he spent as a child at the printer's, the smell of the ink, the pleasure of holding a newly printed book in his hands. After practical training in theological/religious and secular printing in the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, he worked from 1967 until 1970 as secretary of the direction of J.H. Kok B.V., the largest theological publishing house in the Netherlands.

With his love for books, his creativity and interest in theology and the ecumenical movement, Kok developed and shaped the profile of WCC Publications worldwide. He initiated series like the Risk Books, known for popularizing key themes of the ecumenical movement. He developed the concept for the Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement and shaped WCC Publications into a vital instrument of the Council's ecumenical strategy of communication.

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the WCC, said:

"The WCC is deeply indebted to Jan Kok. For more than a quarter of a century he has decisively influenced the public image and perception of the Council. He has generously shared with the ecumenical fellowship his professional skill and competence, his passion for the ecumenical cause and his deep and yet sober faith commitment. He represented the best of the genuine spirit of ecumenism and his memory will be cherished by a large circle of friends and colleagues around the world."

Kristine Greenaway, director of the Cluster of Communication, paid the following tribute:

"Jan was a valued colleague, a mentor, and a leader in his field. He commanded the respect of other publishing professionals and was able to attract an impressive list of contributors and partners to participate in WCC Publications. Even in the final phase of his illness, he maintained close contact with colleagues, offering advice and guidance. But it is above all the courage and the dignity with which he confronted his illness which has awed and inspired those who knew him. He will be greatly missed."

Jan Kok leaves his wife Birgitta, his two sons Jakob and Frederik, in Geneva, and his mother and sister in the Netherlands.