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April 15th, 2011

Cook Group Founder William A. Cook Dies at 80

Bloomington, Ind. –  William Alfred Cook, founder of the Cook Group global network of companies and a pioneer in the development of life-saving minimally invasive medical device technology, died Friday at approximately 4:30 p.m. EDT at his Bloomington home of congestive heart failure. He was 80. Survivors include his wife Gayle Karch Cook, son Carl and daughter-in-law Marcy, and a granddaughter, Eleanor.

Funeral arrangements are pending at The Funeral Chapel of Powell & Deckard in Bloomington.

“Bill Cook left a lifetime legacy of giving that will last forever,” said Kem Hawkins, president of Cook Group. “His philosophy of putting people and patients first is responsible for our company’s 48 years of unprecedented growth and success. His primary wish would be that we carry on that tradition, and ensure the stability and security of Cook here in Bloomington and around the world for our employees, our customers and the millions of patients who have been helped with the medical technologies Cook has pioneered.”

Started in the spare bedroom of his Bloomington apartment in 1963, the Cook family of businesses has grown into a global entity of 42 companies employing more than 10,000 people with manufacturing, sales, logistics and administrative facilities across the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America. The firms manufacture cardiovascular diagnostic and interventional products, antimicrobial catheters, vascular filters, bioengineered tissue grafts, extruded and injection-molded plastics, precision stainless steel tubing, urological equipment, OB/GYN devices and endoscopic instruments. In addition, other Cook Group corporations are involved in real estate, travel services, and aircraft service and maintenance.

Company officials said today that the business will continue as a privately held corporation with global headquarters in Bloomington. Carl Cook, 49, has been named chief executive officer of Cook Group, with Steve Ferguson continuing as chairman and Kem Hawkins continuing as Cook Group president. 2010 annual global revenue for the company was approximately $2 billion.

A noted philanthropist and historic preservationist, Cook and his family were involved in numerous charitable activities and sponsored the restoration of the historically significant West Baden Springs Hotel and French Lick Springs Hotel in southwestern Indiana.

“Bill’s many contributions to the medical industry are unprecedented, and his many contributions to the community and to charitable organizations are extraordinary,” said Steve Ferguson, chairman of Cook Group. “It was through his unique vision, persistence and dedication that Cook grew into a compassionate and caring global company for patients, customers and employees. He truly epitomized the meaning of success.”

Cook was born Jan. 27, 1931, in Mattoon, Ill., and grew up in nearby Canton, Ill. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Northwestern University in 1953 and pursued post-graduate work in physics at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.

He received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1953 from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; his major was biology. In May 1992, he received an Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind. In 1993, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Indiana University. In 1995, he received the Northwestern University Alumni Merit Award and in 1999, the Oregon Health Science University Distinguished Achievement award. Vincennes University awarded him with an Honorary Doctor of Commerce degree in 2002 and Northwestern University again awarded him with an Honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2003. In 2008, Marian College awarded him with an Honorary Doctor of Business degree and in 2009 Spoon River College awarded him a Doctorate of Philanthropy.

A U.S. Army medic, he taught Physics of Anesthesia to Army resident anesthesiologists. His career in business started in 1955 as an engineering recruiter for Martin Aircraft; later he became a catalog editor and scientific products salesman for American Hospital Supply Corporation. In 1958, in Chicago, he co-founded MPL Incorporated, which became the third largest hypodermic needle manufacturer in the United States.

In 1963, he founded Cook Inc. in Bloomington on $1,500 invested capital, with Bill and his wife Gayle as its only employees. The company’s first products were a set of percutaneous wire guides, catheters and needles that helped popularize minimally invasive medical procedures that put an end to exploratory surgery. Cook innovations included firsts in coronary and peripheral stenting, endovascular treatment of aortic aneurysms, difficult airway management and other medical disciplines that helped shape modern medicine worldwide.

Always believing he had a responsibility to use his wealth for good causes, Cook was instrumental in the restoration and reuse of many historic buildings in southern Indiana, including over forty properties on the National Register of Historic Places. He was founder of the Monroe County YMCA, now the largest in Indiana, and sponsor of the Star of Indiana Drum and Bugle Corps, a traveling and performing group of young people. To aid the advancement of education and medical research, Cook companies have provided significant financial support to universities, hospitals and physicians throughout the country, including his alma mater Northwestern University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Indiana University, and more. For more on Cook’s life history and achievements, visit Cook biography.

Medical product manufacturing companies founded by Cook include:

About Cook Medical
Founded in 1963, Cook Medical pioneered many of the medical devices now commonly used to perform minimally invasive medical procedures throughout the body. Today, the company integrates medical devices, drugs and biologic grafts to enhance patient safety and improve clinical outcomes. Since its inception, Cook has operated as a family-held private corporation. For more information, visit Follow Cook Medical on Twitter @cookmedicalpr.