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Lloyd Miller Cooke '37
(1916, La Salle, Illinois - 2001, Oberlin, Ohio), Cross Country 1934-36 and Track and Field 1935-1937
Lloyd M. Cooke won varsity letters in two sports - cross country and track and field - during his career at the University of Wisconsin. Cooke was the first African-American to run cross country for the Badgers, but he was most well-known for his long and decorated scientific and civic career.
Cooke was born in La Salle, Illinois but moved with his family to Gary, Indiana and Park Falls, Wisconsin before college. The son of a government-employed engineer, he entered the UW in 1933. He availed himself of a wide range of campus activities and excelled both academically and athletically while in Madison. 1935 Cross Country team. Lloyd Cooke, second from right (Source: 1936 Yearbook)
Cooke majored in Chemistry and, after his first year in school, was inducted into Phi Eta Sigma, an honorary scholastic fraternity that recognizes freshman academic excellence. He continued his high scholarly achievement throughout his four years at the UW, winning sophomore honors in 1935 and earning admittance to Phi Lambda Upsilon, a national chemistry honor society. Cooke graduated with honors in 1937 and penned his thesis on: "Quantitative Analytical and Concentration Methods for Rhenuins Ores."
He began his athletic career upon arriving in Madison, participating in freshman swimming and track. The following year he joined the varsity track and field and cross country teams. He competed for these two squads during his three remaining years in college, winning varsity letters as a junior and senior.
Cooke ran the longer distances for the Badger track squad, but he found his greatest success in cross country. He was a consistent point-winner for the Badger harriers his final two years in school, helping UW to a combined 9-2 record in 1935 and 1936. Cooke was the second-leading scorer for Wisconsin in 1936, posting two first place and three second place finishes in the team's five meets as Wisconsin shared the Big Ten crown with Indiana.
After graduating from UW, Cooke continued his academic career and received his PhD in Chemistry from Montreal's McGill University in 1941 at the age of 25. He lectured at McGill for two years, before returning to the States and embarking on a career as a highly-respected chemist. Cooke worked for several companies and ultimately ended up as a top research chemist for the Union Carbide Corporation. He was active in the American Chemical Society, serving as the Chairman of the Chicago section in 1955. Cooke wrote numerous academic papers, published a popular textbook on chemistry and the environment; and, in 1970, he received the prestigious William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement.
In the 1970s, Cooke changed his focus in an attempt to increase the minority presence in scientific disciplines. He served several years as Union Carbide's Director of Urban Affairs and was the President of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. In the latter capacity, he worked in concert with several New York City-area universities to recruit minority students to the sciences.
Cooke eventually retired from public life in the 1980s and died in Oberlin, Ohio in 2001.
Gregory Bond, Ph.D.
History, University of Wisconsin