Essay / Education

In High Esteem

When I graduated from Biola and got my picture taken with Dr. Cook, I found myself at a loss for words on how best to thank him for his ministry in my life. Did I thank him for presiding so effectively over a school that has shaped nearly every aspect of my life? Did I thank him for being an excellent role model – someone we could all aspire to imitate? Or, did I thank him for his personal input in my life?

I thanked him best I could, stammering something about something that touch my life, and let the next eager student come up to take his picture. I found myself frustrated with my inability to thank a man so worthy of thanks.

Well, I eventually found the words. Dr. Cook touched my life much like he touched so many others – through his life of integrity and devotion, his prayer, his heart for missions, and his personal investment in my life. I’d like to thank him for this now.

Life of Integrity and Devotion:
I once had the privilege of visiting with Dr. Cook in his office. A friend and I were sharing with him about the California School Project. Towards the end of our visit we asked him if he had any advice for us. Without a moment’s hesitation, he got up from the table, walked over to his desk, brought back a card and began reading the Scripture verse it displayed.

“Now in a large house there are many vessels – some to honor and some to dishonor. If anyone cleanses himself from sin, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (II Timothy 2:20-21))

He finished reading, looked us in the eyes and said, “I don’t know about you, but I want to be used for Christ’s highest purposes. This can only happen if I stay away from sin and devote myself fully to Christ.” Dr. Cook will always be an example to me of faithfully following God and living for His highest purposes. I don’t know if he had a life verse or not, but I know he meditated on this verse every day. I believe this verse as well as any other captures the life of Dr. Cook.

Man of Prayer:
As so many have already related, Dr. Cook prayed for me personally. One of my last interactions with him came this past February. Dr. Cook had been a big supporter of our work in the California School Project, and even prayed for our team every week with his Vice Presidents while he was in office. So I decided to send him an e-mail asking if he would continue praying for me and our team on a regular basis. I received an e-mail back that same afternoon. His reply was simple – “Certainly.” He then told me that he still had a CSP bookmark in his devotional materials that he used everyday.

I couldn’t believe that he was still praying for us, even after he left office. I thought, if he can pray for me and my team, with all the people he knows and cares about, I could afford to get a little more serious about prayer myself.

Man for Missions:
Dr. Cook was not just an excellent administrator and president, he was a missionary. I could never share stories with him of students coming to Christ in L.A. without him sharing stories of people he’d led to the Lord in California and around the world. I believe its important to remember that there are people in heaven today because of Dr. Cook’s personal work for Christ.

It was no surprise then that he was a personal supporter of missions. It was also apparently no secret on campus that if you were a student going on a mission trip and sent Dr. Cook a support letter, he’d support you. One January I lead a team to work with high schools in inner-city L.A. At one of my team meetings someone blurted out that everyone should send letters to Dr. Cook because he always gives to student trips. Well, I knew he liked supporting students here and there, but I thought, “A whole team sending him letters – I’m going to get it!”

A couple weeks later I was sitting on campus when Dr. Cooked walked over to my table with a bewildered look on his face. “How many people are going on your L.A. trip?” he asked. I said, “About a dozen.” “Well, I’ve sure been getting a lot of letters!” he replied. I thought to myself, “I knew it. I’m in trouble! Here it comes!” After a brief paused he quickly followed up by saying, “Well, good. I’ll send in $250. Thanks for leading the trip!” and off he walked.

Personally Invested:
The last time I saw Dr. Cook came on the happiest day of my life – my wedding day. Last semester, my wife Shelley and I were planning our December 21st wedding and wanted to invite the Cooks. I figured we’d send him an invitation, knowing he probably wouldn’t be able to make it – especially to a wedding just 4 days before Christmas. Sure enough, I received an RSVP saying sorry but he would be unable to attend.

The day of my wedding finally came. I was standing outside behind the church waiting for our ceremony to start when, much to my surprise, Dr. Cook and Anna Belle showed up! I thanked him for coming, treating him like the guest of honor that he was. Dr. Cook replied in his token unassuming way. “Hey, we wouldn’t miss it. Sorry we RSVPed that we weren’t coming. We had a family get-together scheduled today. It got canceled, so we thought we’d stop by. I promise we won’t eat any food!”

High Esteem:
Something many others have already commented on is that Dr. Cook was universally respected. I believe the reason for this is best summed up by the Apostle Paul.

When Paul commended Timothy to the believers at Philippi, he did so by saying one simple thing. “I have no one else like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:20). He goes on in the same chapter to admonish the Philippians to “hold such men in high esteem” (Phil. 2:29).

Dr. Cook lived for the things of Christ, and did not seek his own fame, praise, or prestige. He humbly did the work that God called him to and sincerely cared for those in his trust.

Thank you Dr. Cook for your legacy, for steering a school that shaped us all, and for your personal impact on my life. We will always hold you in the highest esteem.

Mark Hopson is graduate of Biola University and the Torrey Honors Institute with a degree in Humanities/English. Hopson is currently a student at Talbot School of Theology and works with the California School Project.

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