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William W. Cook: University of Michigan Donor Extraordinaire   

William W. Cook (1858-1930) was a graduate of the University of Michigan literary college and Law School. He donated both the Martha Cook building and the entire Michigan Law Quadrangle to the University. These gifts were significant for several reasons and exemplified the importance of private donations at a time when University funding came mainly from legislative appropriations. Cook’s story illustrates how a University President effectively nurtured a prospective donor, and how an impatient Law School dean threatened to drive that donor away. In this class, we will learn about a man who grew up in the small town of Hillsdale, Michigan, moved to New York City to start a law practice, helped to create trans-global communications, and become the nation’s leading expert in corporation law. William Cook was generous but eccentric, and by today’s standards racially biased. In this presentation Margaret Leary will address critical questions of philanthropic ethics and academic freedom. 


Margaret A. Leary received a B.A. from Cornell University, an M.A. from the University of Minnesota, another from Eastern Michigan University, and a J.D. from the William Mitchell College of Law. She taught at the University of Michigan Law School and was director of the university’s Law Library from 1984 to 2011. Margaret is the author of Giving It All Away: The Story of William W. Cook and His Michigan Law Quadrangle (University of Michigan Press, 2011.)


  • William W. Cook: University of Michigan Donor Extraordinaire
    Dates: 4/28/2022 - 4/28/2022

  • ONLINE REGISTRATION FOR THIS CLASS IS CLOSED. If you are trying to register the day before this class starts or the day of the class, please email or call the office so we can register you over the phone and send you the Zoom Link. Thank you!
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