Humble, compassionate and kind with a personal interest in the lives of his students in school and after graduation; notorious for his love of puns and wry sense of humor; gracious, practical and wise; and emeritus professor of business administration and founder of the Houghton College business administration department, Arnold Cook ’43 passed away on May 7, 2015, after nine months of 24/7 home and hospice care.
When Arnold was invited by President Stephen Paine and Dean Arthur Lynip ’38 to come to Houghton to set up the newly approved business major in 1959, Arnold initially said “no.” Twice. “I didn’t even consider it,” recalled Arnold in a Milieu article commemorating his retirement in 1988. His letter back to Houghton said that he had a good life where he was, enjoyed a vital ministry in his church and wasn’t qualified to teach anyway. With no academic training in his field and a salary offer of only a fraction of what he was currently earning, turning the job down seemed like the “safe, reasonable course.” After two convicting sermons and some soul searching and prayer time with his wife, Elizabeth “Betty” (Park ’62), the Cooks decided that God was indeed leading them to leave their home in Ellensburg, Washington, and move their little family across the country to serve at Houghton a year later. “When God hits you over the head with a hammer,” quipped Arnold, “you’d better say yes!”
Today, thousands of students are grateful for Arnold Cook’s choice; business is one of Houghton’s largest majors, and the department he founded is widely recognized for offering innovation and hands-on experiences. “His life touched hundreds of kids who are now business leaders throughout the Western world,” commented former student and Chief Executive Officer of the York Foundation at York Care Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, Kenneth McGeorge ’66.
As a self-taught accountant who passed the CPA exam without the benefit of any formal instruction, Arnold’s first year of teaching was, according to his retirement citation in 1988, “a blur of working and trying to stay awake with four or five new preparations each term.” What he lacked in academic training, however, he made up for with his practical business experience. “I felt that the disciplines he required served me very, very well—in graduate school and in the business world,” recalled Gary Larder ’62, former student and Chairman of the Board for Rochester Community Baseball, Inc., home to minor league team the Rochester Red Wings. “He was a ‘nuts and bolts’ man when it came to accounting and finance, and that turned out to be very valuable to his students as they began their careers.”
Along with setting up the business major, Arnold was influential in the growth of Houghton’s Audio Visual (AV) department. Early in his tenure at Houghton, he advocated for the use of audio/visual aids in class and was responsible for the purchase of the college’s first overhead projector. Later, he was named coordinator of educational media. “Arnold was always into new technology,” remembers former student, colleague and retired Professor of Business Administration, Dick Halberg ’71. “We were one of the first departments on campus to have a personal computer, which he and I shared.” Thanks to Arnold’s early efforts over the years, Houghton was able to have a color TV studio in the basement of the campus center and link via microwave connection to Houghton’s Buffalo campus in the early ’90s. Today’s AV office boasts a full-time service coordinator and nine student assistants offering media support and services to faculty, equipment rental, video production, video conferencing, and even aerial photography via quadcopter.
While his intuitional achievements are many, what Arnold was really known for was caring deeply about his students—and he often prayed for them long after graduation. “I remember, at the times that I was struggling academically, he would sit and listen, give wise counsel, and you could see the compassion in his expression,” offered McGeorge. “We were not just student numbers to him; we were kids who needed wise, Christ-like direction.” Many of his early students remained his friends and were on his prayer list at the time of his passing. “At Christmas time, he would say that he received wonderful gifts—cards from his students informing him of their current careers,” remembered Larder.
Arnold is survived by former emeriti faculty member, associate professor of biology and wife of nearly 70 years, Elizabeth “Betty” (Park ’62) Cook; children, Bettina Jeffords, Danny Cook ’70 and wife Glenda (Andrews ’70) Cook, and Judith “Judi” (Cook ’72) Mayhle and husband Dr. Douglas Mayhle; grandchildren, Shelby Jeffords, Andrew Cook, Camilla Blue, Timothy Mayhle ’01 and wife Janet (Wagner ’03) Mayhle, Elizabeth “Bitsy” Mayhle, and Robert Mayhle ’07; and six great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his parents and his grandson, Shawn Jeffords. Memorial gifts can be made to the Arnold Cook Scholarship, a fund set up to help future business majors.