Cook, Stanton R., 1925-2015
- Existence: 1925 - 2015
Stanton Rufus Cook was born on July 3, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois, to Thelma and Rufus Cook. He grew up with his parents and younger sister Nancy in Park Ridge, Illinois. Cook attended Maine Township High School, where he was a member of the rifle team and, playing the euphonium, of the high school marching band.
After graduating from high school, Cook entered the United States Army in January 1944. Because of his Christian Scientist beliefs, it was in the Army that Cook had his first medical examination by a physician. Enrolled in the Army Air Forces cadet program, Cook had his first airplane flight in April 1944 at Kratz Field in St. Charles, Missouri. He continued his flight training at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. After completing Gunnery and Advanced Navigation School he was commissioned a second lieutenant. In January 1946, Cook, a Flight Crew Navigator at Chanute Field, Illinois, received his discharge from military service.
Cook enrolled at Northwestern University in 1946, graduating in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation he joined the Shell Oil Co. in Chicago as a trainee and later worked as a district salesman in Lake County, Illinois. In March 1949 he met Barbara (“Bobbie”) Wilson on a blind date in Evanston, Illinois. Wilson was a native of Evanston, where she attended Evanston Township High School. She graduated from Carleton College, Minnesota in 1949 with a degree in sociology. The couple married in September 1950 and had five children together – Scott, Nancy, Sarah, David, and Douglas.
In April 1951 Cook began his career with the Tribune Company as an engineer in its production department. From that position he rose quickly through the ranks. In 1969 he became director of operations of the Chicago Tribune, and general manager, executive vice president and director in 1970. He was elected president in 1972, became publisher in 1973, and chairman and chief officer in 1974. At the Tribune Company, he became a director in 1972, member of the Tribune Company board and a vice president in 1973, president and chief executive officer in 1974, and chairman in 1989.
Cook’s significant positions at the Tribune Company and the Chicago Tribune enabled him to alter the company’s traditions established by longtime Tribune Company chief, Col. Robert R. McCormick. For example, when The Chicago Tribune published all Watergate-related transcripts, Cook backed an editorial that called for the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon. Cook was keen to establish corporate responsibility to shareholders, mixed socially and easily with Tribune employees, and joined editors and reporters on their trips abroad. He also was a talented photographer and the photographs he took on a tour through the Northwest Territories of Canada were featured in the Chicago Tribune Magazine. In September 1977, Cook and his wife Barbara joined a delegation from the Associated Press to travel 16 days through the People’s Republic of China. On this extensive journey Cook took hundreds of photographs, many of which were published in the Chicago Tribune Magazine’s cover story of December, 1977.
Cook was a passionate baseball fan and follower of the Chicago Cubs. In 1981, under his guidance, the company purchased the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field for $20.5 million. By acquiring the team, the Tribune protected a valuable source of sports programming for its WGN TV and radio stations. He remained chairman of the Chicago Cubs until 1994.
In 1983, Cook guided a major structural and financial reorganization of The Chicago Tribune. Cook’s involvement in leading the company from its status as a closely held, private entity to a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange resulted in a shift away from corporate control by a family trust to one responsible to its shareholders.
Under Cook’s leadership of the Tribune Company, two major events took place in the year 1985. First was the purchase of Los Angeles television station KTLA, which made the Tribune Company the nation’s largest operator of independent stations and which led to the creation of a separate broadcasting division. Second was the 40-month printers’ strike beginning in July, 1985. The Chicago Tribune wrote on that day: “Unions representing more than 1,000 production workers struck The Tribune Thursday night in the first major newspaper walkout in Chicago in nearly four decades. Printers, pressmen and mailers set up picket lines at 8 p.m. outside the Tribune Tower, 435 N. Michigan Ave., and the Freedom Center printing plant, 777 W. Chicago Ave. Tribune officials said they plan to continue publication of the newspaper, probably in a smaller size than normal, relying heavily on management personnel. The news sections of Friday`s edition were reduced from 42 pages to 24. The walkout came 10 days after the three unions allowed a strike deadline to pass while continuing negotiations with the company.” (“3 Unions Strike Tribune.” Chicago Tribune. July 19, 1985.)
In 1985, Cook received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Northwestern University. He received honors as well from DePaul University, Illinois College, and Loyola University of Chicago. In 1987, Cook was elected to the Northwestern University Board of Trustees and became a life trustee of the University in 1996. Also in 1987, Northwestern awarded Cook its Alumni Medal. He was a member of the Northwestern Leadership Circle and of Northwestern’s Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science Advisory Council.
Cook’s prominence in publishing and in business made him an exceptionally prominent figure in the news industry, broadcasting, professional sports, and in civic affairs. He held important posts as a director of the Robert R. McCormick-Tribune Foundation, of the Associated Press, and with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. In addition, he was a trustee of leading Chicago cultural institutions including the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, and the Shedd Aquarium. He was a president of the Commercial Club of Chicago and president for life of the Economic Club of Chicago.
Cook died on September 3, 2015, at his home in Kenilworth, Illinois.