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University of Missouri

An Experiment in Giving

A donor honors his father through a scholarship to MU student.

Robert Cook, John Adams and Brett Carney

Robert Cook, John Adams and Brett Carney are connected through a promise to give back. Cook photo by Nick King; Adams and Carney photos by Nicholas Benner.

Harold Cook

Harold Cook started course work at Mizzou in 1937, served in the U.S. Army from 1943–46 and re-enrolled at Mizzou in 1946. After nearly 11 years, he graduated in 1947. Photo courtesy of Robert Cook.

Harold Cook, BA ’47, grew up in an orphanage in Irvington, Ill. He worked two jobs, one that provided meals at Gaebler’s Black & Gold restaurant and another with a perk room at the Daniel Boone Hotel, to put himself through a chemistry education at Mizzou, which spanned nearly 11 years because he served in the U.S. Army from 1943–46. When his son, Robert Cook, went to college at Michigan State, Harold wouldn’t let him work. He wanted Robert to focus on his studies. Now a professor at Central Michigan University, Robert promised his father he would provide a scholarship to a gifted Mizzou chemistry major who needed financial aid. “We could help somebody else who is struggling,” Robert told his father. “We could find somebody like you, Dad, and we could help them out.” Harold died in 2003. In 2004, Robert made good on his promise.

Robert Cook

Harold Cook visited son Robert Cook’s classroom at Central Michigan once. When Robert stood to address his students, he pointed to his father at the back of the lecture hall. “If you like what I’m doing in this class,” — and they did; he was twice voted best teacher at Central Michigan — “you can thank my dad,” he said. “He’s the one who got me here.” Looking to pay it forward, Robert reached out to his father’s alma mater in search of an undergraduate scholarship candidate.

John Adams

John Adams helps shape undergraduates’ experiences of chemistry at Mizzou. The 1993 William T. Kemper Fellow was director of undergraduate studies and adviser to MU’s professional chemistry fraternity when Robert Cook called wanting to give a scholarship to a student in memory of his father. The student who came to mind, a go-getter who needed and deserved the money, was Brett Carney. “I knew Brett wanted to do an MBA when he graduated, and Cook is a business professor,” Adams recalls. “I though there might be an extra relationship there that might be good.”

Brett Carney, BS ’06

Brett Carney was not expecting the call from chemistry Professor John Adams with the news that Robert Cook was giving him a full scholarship for his last three semesters at Mizzou. The scholarship was big, “but getting to know Dr. Cook had a larger affect on me,” Carney says. Carney was planning on getting a master’s in business administration, specializing in marketing or finance. “[Cook] opened my eyes into this new area of business I hadn’t thought about,” Carney says. Because of the scholarship, Carney was able to attend graduate school earlier than he anticipated and focused on supply chain management, the same field that Cook teaches. He also met his future wife in the MBA program. “I always tell Dr. Cook, ‘You gave me a scholarship and a wife.’ ”