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Changing Lives: Honoring Bill & Gayle Cook

A simple thank you doesn't do Cooks justice

June 17, 2010

What have Bill and Gayle Cook meant to Bloomington, Monroe County and southern Indiana?

The question is explored in a special section in today’s newspaper and on As the section outlines, the contributions made by the Cooks involve vision, leadership, passion and generosity. It’s not a stretch to say that without them and their efforts, the following would not have materialized — certainly not in the high-quality form they exist:

• The Volunteers in Medicine Clinic.
• The Monroe County YMCA.
• Fountain Square Mall.
• The Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center.
• The Showers complex, City Hall and thus the area the Farmers Market inhabits on Saturdays.
• Bloomington Hospital’s heart catheterization laboratory.
• The world-class digital library at the IU Jacobs School of Music.
• New Tech High School.
• The B-Line Trail.
• Cook Hall, the new basketball facility at IU.
• The Monroe County History Center.
• The Center for Life Sciences at Ivy Tech.
• The Canopy of Lights and 280,000 total lights decorating Bloomington at Christmas.
• West Baden-French Lick’s two historic hotels and casino.

That’s just a partial list that doesn’t include perhaps their biggest impact — providing jobs, benefits and stability for nearly 5,000 people in south-central Indiana. Without their work and commitment to Bloomington, there would be no Cook World Headquarters or Cook Pharmica giving new life to the former home of RCA/Thomson. There would be no Cook Clinic providing health care for the companies’ employees and serving as a model for other clinics being considered by some key community entities.

The importance of these contributions to this community and others in the area cannot be overstated. Still, there is another key aspect of the Cook style of leadership, one described by Denise Shaw, executive director of the Owen County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp. Cook companies employ 525 people in Spencer.

“When you have a Cook facility in your community, it’s not just about jobs or just about taxes. They are very engaged, they are very community minded. They make us feel like they want Spencer to be a success, and that’s really nice.”

Their community-mindedness was also noted by Shari Woodbury, executive director of the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County.

“Whether they are lending their support and vision to preserve history, boost people’s health or develop young people, when the Cooks give back you know they are acting on their heartfelt passions. They can inspire all of us to act on our convictions — tapping our knowledge and creativity, as well as financial resources, to benefit our communities,” she said.

While the section in the newspaper and an event Sunday are meant to thank the Cooks, the words of Ron Walker, president of the Bloomington Economic Development Corp., show the daunting nature of that task: “They’ve had such a wonderful and powerful mark on our city, I don’t think we could ever thank them enough.”

Bill and Gayle Cook at the dedication of Cook Hall. David Snodgress | Herald-Times
Copyright: 2010