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Michael W. Cook’s Remarks to the Investors in Excellence an Inspiration

rudd grover cook

By now you will have heard the news that Michael W. Cook, founder and CEO of SouthernSun Asset Management, and his wife Jennifer, recently committed a generous $1 million gift for development and operation of a new, state-of-the-art finance trading lab in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics. Included in this agreement is a $500,000 matching pledge, which will bring the total endowment to $1.5 million.

I found Michael’s recent remarks in recognition of his gift inspirational, challenging the U of M to pursue greatness, and offering a unique perspective of hope critical to our work.  Here is the text of Michael’s remarks:

“I am grateful for this recognition; it is an honor and, as is true of any honor one receives, achieved as a result of the tireless efforts and sacrifices of others.  From my wife and children, to those with whom I work each and every day as well as those who have gone before us to show us the way.

As Jennifer said to me earlier today, “we never knew it would look like this—we worked, we sweated, we prayed—a lot, and we worked some more—we are fortunate above all people that it looks like this for now.”  We are enthusiastic about the opportunity to be a part of what not only we but others also, believe is something special in the works here at The University of Memphis.

As a native Memphian, but not a University of Memphis alumnus, I’ve likely suffered from a bit of incredulity for the past 57 years.  It has so oft times seemed as though the University was saddled with a perpetual inferiority complex-- a sense in which, as many thought, as the City of Memphis goes, so goes the University of Memphis.

In 1937 Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her diary, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Our family is convinced from the vision and leadership of Dean Grover to that of his colleagues across other U of M colleges, and from President Brad Martin to our new President Dr. Rudd, there is no consent.

What we see today leads us to conclude that going forward, as The University of Memphis goes, so goes the City of Memphis.

We believe that new financial analytics and trading lab offers the opportunity to be:

The Epicenter of Innovation and the Talisman for our College, our University and our City with its rich heritage in finance—

And maybe one day, the model for public institutions of higher learning across the country to follow.

One of my favorite writers, philosophers and mathematicians Blaise Pascal wrote: “ In any picture of a life laid out before us, there are abrupt moments of pivotal formation and gradual phases of transformation.  It is a paradox that insight seems to grow gradually and yet it also seems to arrive in overpowering moments of abruptness.” I think this is one of those moments, one of those times  here at this university and at this college, and we are so blessed to be a part of it.

Thank you for being a part of this special day for our family.”

This is a gift that provides a solid foundation for an innovative, cutting-edge educational experience that will help prepare our students and develop the skills necessary for a highly competitive job market. Michael’s hopeful and generous remarks this month are another example of the tremendous support from the Memphis community for our great University.

View Michael Cook’s entire speech at:

Go Tigers!

M. David Rudd, President

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