Happy Birthday, Mr. Cooke

“Destiny demands you do better than your supposed best.”
— Jack Kent Cooke

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation was established in 2000 through the will of prominent businessman, sportsman, and philanthropist Jack Kent Cooke. We would like to look back at and celebrate our founder on this the day of his birth.

Cooke in tweed 1

By all accounts, Mr. Cooke was an extraordinary man. From humble beginnings he built a media empire of radio stations, cable television, magazines and newspapers, and an impressive portfolio of prestigious properties and sports teams. Despite his success, Mr. Cooke always regretted that his personal circumstances did not afford him the opportunity to attend college as a young man.

Mr. Cooke was born in 1912 in Ontario, Canada. He was both an athlete and a musician, and as a young man he dreamt of pursuing a formal education. That dream was cut short when he left high school during the Depression to work full time to help support his family.

Mr. Cooke spent three years selling encyclopedias door-to-door, and then he managed a radio station in Ontario, eventually partnering with media executive Roy Thomson. Together they operated radio stations and newspapers throughout Canada. Mr. Cooke moved to the United States and became a U.S. citizen in 1960.

To Mr. Cooke, education was a lifelong pursuit. A passionate student his entire life, he was knowledgeable in fields as diverse as literature, music, sports, and architecture. His holdings were also diverse, including television stations and newspapers, as well as the Chrysler Building in New York City. Among the sports teams he owned were the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Kings, and the Washington Redskins. As a musician, he was a member of the American Society of Composers and Producers. He collected fine art, owned racehorses, and was a
colorful public figure.

When he died on April 6, 1997, Mr. Cooke left the bulk of his fortune to establish a foundation dedicated to supporting individuals of exceptional promise—those who work hard, stay focused, and defy the stereotype that poverty precludes high achievement.  The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation supports exceptional students from elementary school to graduate school through scholarships, grants, direct service, and knowledge creation and dissemination. Since opening its doors, the Foundation has awarded $120 million in over 2,000 scholarships and $76 million in grants to organizations that support our mission of advancing the education of exceptionally promising youth.

The recipients of these scholarships are honoring Mr. Cooke today. Facebook and Instagram are awash in photos of him, posts and tweets are wishing “Uncle Jack” a happy birthday, and Jack Kent Cooke Scholars are gathering together for our annual fall Scholar parties, which are hosted on and around his birthday.

Today marks the 101st birthday of my personal hero, Jack Kent Cooke. He chose to invest his success and wealth in the dreams of strangers that he would never meet. Because of his generosity, I am able to attend an excellent school without accruing a crippling debt. I am free pursue my academic passions without fear.

Through the foundation, I have been fortunate enough to meet some of the most incredible and gifted individuals that walk this earth. I am humbled to be counted among these remarkable people. JKCF scholars, you compel me to dream bigger, work harder, and achieve more.

Uncle Jack, thank you for changing my life. I aspire to someday leave a legacy of kindness and generosity worthy of the gift you have given me. Happy 101st birthday

–CW

With his gift Mr. Cooke created a legacy of providing worthy individuals of limited means with the opportunity to achieve their full potential through education.

Happy birthday, Mr. Cooke, and thank you.