2012 Lenhart J.H. Grothe Resources award winner

Donald J. Cook, '47, '54

Donald Cook was a soldier, gold-miner, university professor, administrator, diplomat, author and Alaskan pioneer.

Cook was born on February 14, 1920, in Astoria, Oregon. At the age of 18, he arrived at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks where he enrolled in the mining engineering program and also became an ROTC cadet.

In 1943, he graduated from the first four-year UA ROTC program and was quickly shipped off to Fort Benning, Georgia, and later Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for advanced military training. As a lieutenant, his first combat assignment was at Utah Beach in Normandy, France where he arrived on D-Day plus one. His second assignment was to lead his unit in the notorious hedgerows near St. Lo, where he was wounded in action. He received the Purple Heart.

Cook spent 12 months in various military hospitals, but, later returned to Alaska and married Cora.

Cook received his bachelor’s degree in mineral engineering from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in 1947 and spent 10 years as an engineer for the Fairbanks Exploration Co. in various mining operations throughout Interior Alaska.

The academic world called Cook again so he took his young family and moved to the East Coast, where he enrolled in graduate school at Pennsylvania State University. He earned both master’s and doctorate degrees in three years in the fields of mining engineering and mineral preparation.
Upon graduation, the Cooks traveled back to Alaska where Donald began a lengthy career
as a college professor at UAF.

He helped train hundreds of young mining engineers. In 1983, Cook received the Distinguished Alumnus Award at UAF for his achievements. In 1985, he was hired as UAF’s dean of the School of Mining, Petroleum and Geological Engineering. He also became the director of the Mineral Industry Research Laboratory.

His commitment to academic excellence was rivaled only by his efforts to assist local miners in technology development and regulatory compliance for a safe environment.

Cook also loved to travel. He worked as a mine consultant in Columbia, South America. He took a sabbatical leave from UAF in the 1970s and traveled to Taiwan where he taught mineral engineering at Cheng Kung University. This visit opened a new door of international opportunity for UAF. Cook established a program for Chinese students to confer mining engineering degrees at the Fairbanks campus. His experiences in Taiwan and China led him to new friendships overseas. After retirement at UAF, Cook was appointed as an Alaska trade representative to Taiwan. He and Cora lived in Taipei for another year.

It is with great honor that the UAF Alumni Association posthumously presents to Donald Cook the 2012 Lenhart J.H. Grothe Resources Award.

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