New Cook professorship will create great future economic thinkers

Professorship will focus on macroeconomics and free market theory

At a time when the American economy needs the best and the brightest economic minds, prominent banker and philanthropist Sam B. Cook has given Washington University in St. Louis a critical resource to help develop the next generation of economic leaders with a gift of $1.5 million to establish a professorship in the Department of Economics in Arts & Sciences.


During the first six years, the gift will support visiting professors with expertise in the field of macroeconomics and free market theory.

Sometime after that period, the position will be converted to a permanent professorship within the department. The gift allows for considerable flexibility regarding the visiting faculty member’s period of engagement, allowing the university’s academic needs at the time to drive that decision.

“As a successful banker, Sam Cook understands the importance of inspiring our undergraduate students to study economics, and the role economics plays in providing an exceptional and well-rounded education at Washington University,” Chancellor Mark S Wrighton says. “Most important, Sam knows that exposing our students to brilliant teachers and thinkers who can make economics come alive in the classroom will not only benefit our institution and our graduates, but also the broader global society in which we live.

“This inventive and very generous gift allows us the luxury of time to seek out the best people in the field, find the best match for our academic environment, then offer that person a permanent home here. We are inspired by Sam Cook’s dedication to both the field of economics and to our future economists, and are extremely grateful that he has chosen Washington University to help secure that legacy,” Wrighton says.

“Our thriving Department of Economics is further strengthened by Sam Cook’s tremendous gift and helps us achieve Arts & Sciences’ ongoing mission to provide the highest quality intellectual environment possible,” says Gary S. Wihl, PhD, the Hortense & Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences.

Cook believes there is a critical need for the next generation of leaders to have a solid understanding of macroeconomic theory and free market principles and hopes that the faculty who are selected will encourage further study and a great appreciation for the discipline.

“On behalf of the economics department, we are honored to be the beneficiary of Mr. Cook’s generous gift,” says Michele Boldrin, PhD, the Joseph Gibson Hoyt Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences and department chair. “The professorship strengthens our focus on undergraduate teaching, which is an important component of the department’s overall mission. There is always a need for a great teacher in our field, and I am excited about the opportunity for our students to be exposed to a variety of thoughts and ideas.”

Whoever is chosen as visiting professor and/or as holder of the permanent title, he or she will be joining a group of world-class economists and, according to John Nachbar, PhD, professor of economics and the department’s associate chair, one of the strongest groups of macroeconomics faculty in the world.

It is clear that student interest in economics is growing at the university, as indicated by a 25 percent increase in the number of economics majors in Arts & Sciences between 2005 and 2010.

Cook, a former member of WUSTL’s Board of Trustees, attended the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) before joining the army. During World War II, he served as a captain in the field artillery and as an aide de camp to the commanding general of the XXXVI Corps Artillery throughout France, Belgium and Germany. For his service, Cook received the Meritorious Service Award.

After completing his service, he enrolled at Yale University and graduated in 1948 with special honors in economics. He entered the banking industry and became president of Central Bancompany in 1961; currently, he serves as senior chairman of the board, and his son is the company’s president and chief executive officer.

In 2007, Cook provided MU with a gift to support the position of department chair in economics.

In addition to his philanthropy, Cook has contributed time and talent to a number of state government and higher education initiatives, including serving as a University of Missouri system curator and as a former member of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education.

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