ABOUT THIS BOOK
“Margaret Leary's carefully researched book illuminates a complex man who marked his university in a truly enduring way."
---Francis X. Blouin Jr., Director, Bentley Historical Library, and Professor, School of Information and Department of History, University of Michigan
“Generations of Michigan Law grads have passed on myths about their generous but eccentric benefactor. . . . Now Margaret Leary has given us the real story, and it reads like a gripping whodunit."
---Theodore J. St. Antoine, James E. and Sarah A. Degan Professor Emeritus of Law and Past Dean, University of Michigan Law School
“In an absorbing book, Margaret Leary unstintingly investigates unpublished, archival material to unravel enigmas surrounding William Wilson Cook. She brings to life Cook's brilliant interactions with powerful moguls of the early twentieth century as she traces his lofty, philanthropic mission to elevate the legal profession."
---Ilene H. Forsyth, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of the History of Art, emerita, University of Michigan
William W. Cook, born in 1858 and a graduate of the University of Michigan and of its law school, made his fortune by investing in the burgeoning telegraph and communications industry, as well as in representing the Mackay Company in their frequent tumultuous battles with Western Union and the U.S. government. Though Cook entered New York society and never returned to Michigan after receiving his law degree, he decided not just to give his alma mater the finest physical facility of any existing law school, but to donate permanent resources that would permit the law school to engage in groundbreaking legal research. However, his generosity proved controversial and eventually very litigious. Margaret A. Leary places Cook's story in the rich social and cultural context of his time and paints a fascinating portrait of a complex figure whose legacy continues to shape the University of Michigan.
Cover photographs: (left) Gregory Fox Photography; (right) Ann B. Cook collection, photo by Russell R. Serbay