Obituary: LeRoy F. Cook, Jr., professor emeritus of Physics

January 18, 2005

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LeRoy F. Cook, Jr., 73, professor emeritus of Physics, died of melanoma cancer on Jan. 6 at his home in Amherst.

Born in Ashland, Kentucky, he grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned his bachelor’s in 1953. After serving two years in the U.S. Army, he returned to Berkeley, where he completed his master’s degree in 1957 and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1959.

After teaching at Princeton University from 1959-65, he joined the Physics and Astronomy Department, where he taught until his retirement in 2001. He was head of the department of 12 years and also chaired a curriculum study committee for the College of Arts and Sciences. The study, which became known as the “Cook Report,” led to significant changes for the improvement of the Arts and Sciences curriculum.

From 1976-82, he was the chairman of the Chancellor’s Lecture Series, instrumental in bring visiting lecturers to campus. From 1987-90 he was a member and chairman of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics personnel committee. In 1999, he was the faculty associate to the dean for the purpose of outreach programs.

He was an early advocate and leader to improve communication and interaction between the University and teachers at the K-12 level. In 1993, he was the principal investigator of Project UPDATE (University Physics Departments and Alliances for Teacher Enhancement), a three-year program to help high school teachers improve their instructional effectiveness. Project UPDATE was funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

In 1971, he was selected as a lifetime fellow of the American Physical Society, serving on its education committee as vice chairman in 1995 and chairman in 1996. In 1985, he was elected to lifetime membership of the College of Clare Hall at Cambridge University in England.

In addition to his wife Arrelle of Amherst, he leaves his daughters, Nancy (Cook) Mosman of San Diego and Laura Cook of San Francisco; a son, Andrew Cook and his wife, Leda Masse, of Sunderland; three grandchildren; a sister and brother.

Memorial gifts may be made to the LeRoy F. Cook Memorial Scholarship in Physics, c/o Development Office, Memorial Hall.