William W. Cook, an 1882 Michigan Law grad, made a fortune by working for, and investing in, the Mackay telegraph and cable companies, based in Manhattan. As general counsel, he created business plans and frequently tangled with competitor Western Union (which, under Jay Gould, had held a virtual monopoly in the communications field until Cook and Mackay entered the fray). Cook also fended off several attempts by the federal government to take over the cable and telegraph industries. He gave the Martha Cook women's dormitory to Michigan in 1915. His even larger gifts (the Lawyers Club, John Cook dormitory, Legal Research building, and Hutchins Hall) comprised the Law Quadrangle, whose buildings opened from 1924-1933. In addition to the buildings, Cook gave an endowment now worth over $50 million to support legal research. His estate was worth $20 million at his death in 1930; the value today is impossible to calculate but would range from $300 to $600 million.
For more information on Cook, visit the William W. Cook website.
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