On Tuesday U of M was in the news because of the firing of football coach and sourdough aficionado Brady Hoke. I thought interim AD Jim Hackett handled the exceptionally difficult situation about as well as one could, but I’d like to focus on the other big thing that was happening at Michigan that day. It was Giving Tuesday, known around these parts as Giving Blueday. 5,437 donors, including yours truly, combined to give $3.2 million (!!) to various Michigan causes on Tuesday, far exceeding the $1 million goal. As a former tour guide for Undergraduate Admissions and University Development I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about the philanthropic history on campus and in the early 20th century few rivaled the contributions that William Cook made to Michigan.
Those familiar with Michigan’s campus will know that Cook is responsible for the funds which paid for the construction of Michigan’s Law Quad and the adjacent Martha Cook residence hall, which is named for his mother. The library, dorm, and lawyer’s club construction was just one of many projects undertaken during the boom years of the 1920s. Upon his death Cook left almost his entire fortune to the Michigan Law School which adjusted for today amounts to over $250 million. In the 1980s they expanded the law library underground. One myth I often encountered among some tour guides was the idea that this was because Cook had required that any renovations had to be made in the same architectural style using similar stone. Though it would have been impressive foresight, it really was because those in charge chose to preserve the look and feel of the area. You can read all the details in Cook’s will, where he noted that U of M “is and should be the pride of the State of Michigan”. There are unconfirmed reports that Cook also once said that “Bakers & Best pumpkin cornbread is and should be the pride of the food blogosphere’.