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College and Community Remember Renowned Mathematics Professor Kenneth Cooke

An overflow crowd from campus and the wider community turned out on Saturday, Sept. 8 to remember internationally renowned mathematician Kenneth L. Cooke in a service held at the Claremont United Church of Christ, Congregational.

Cooke died of a brain tumor in Pomona, Calif. on Aug. 25, 2007. He was 82.

Born Aug. 13, 1925 in Kansas City, Mo., Cooke attended Pomona College despite his parents’ urging that he consider Harvard University. His studies were interrupted by U.S. Navy service during World War II, but he returned and graduated with a B.A. in mathematics in 1947. At Pomona, he met his future wife, Margaret Burgess, a government major in the Class of 1948, and they were married in 1950.

He went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Stanford University. He taught mathematics at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., for seven years before joining the Pomona faculty in 1957. Within five years, he had become chair of the department, a position he held for a decade, and been promoted to full professor.

In his research, Professor Cooke was considered among the top practitioners in the world in two discrete fields of mathematics—delay differential equations and mathematical modeling. In the last 20 years of his career, he carved out a special niche in the area of mathematical modeling of such infectious diseases as AIDS. In 1990, an elite group of 100 mathematicians from 22 countries paid Cooke a singular honor when they assembled in Claremont to honor him prior to his 65th birthday with an international symposium on “Differential Equations and Applications to Biology Population Dynamics.”

A memorial fund in Cooke's honor will support summer research projects of students in the Department of Mathematics at Pomona College. The Cooke family has asked that donations in memory of Ken Cooke be sent to Pomona College for the Kenneth L. Cooke Memorial Fund, in care of Don Pattison, Director of Donor Relations, 550 North College Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711.