Tim Cook’s Hometown Reveals Apple CEO’s Humble Roots
As the head of a world-famous tech company with a market cap that tops $473 billion, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook is practically a celebrity. However, the Apple executive wasn’t born into wealth or power. A recent profile of Cook done by local Alabama news site AL.com, revealed details about Cook’s humble beginnings growing up in a small town in Alabama called Robertsdale. AL.com’s Michael Finch II talked with Cook’s parents, Don and Geraldine Cook, as well as the Apple CEO’s former classmates and teachers.
Although no one probably would have guessed that Cook would eventually become the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world, Cook’s strong work ethic and studious nature were evident to many of his friends and family members even at a young age. According Geraldine Cook, Cook held several different jobs, including delivering newspapers, working at a restaurant, and working at a pharmacy.
Cook’s former math teacher, Barbara Davis, recalled that Cook was hard-working, but also personable. “You didn’t go around calling him a nerd,” Davis told AL.com. “He was just the kind of person you liked to be around. He was a reliable kid. He was always meticulous with his work, so I knew it would be done right.”
Cook also had a wide variety of interests outside of academic pursuits in school, including playing trombone and serving as business manager on the yearbook staff. Cook ended up as salutatorian in his Class of 1978, while classmate and friend Teresa Prochaska Huntsman graduated as class valedictorian. “He wasn’t one-dimensional,” recalled Huntsman via AL.com. “I didn’t know anybody who didn’t like him. He had a great personality.”
As noted by AL.com, Robertsdale was a small town of 2,300 people when the Cook family moved there in 1971. The close-knit community is proud, but also protective, of its most famous former resident. The town recently declared December 10 “Mr. Timothy D. Cook Day.” “He is the pride and joy of our town,” former Cook classmate Susie Kendrick Vivar told AL.com. “We’re all very proud to say that he lived here.”
Cook is known to be an intensely private individual and most people knew very little about him when he assumed control of the company after Steve Jobs’s death. However, the Apple CEO briefly touched on his experience growing up in 1960s Alabama in a speech he gave during an awards ceremony hosted in New York City by his alma mater, Auburn University. In his acceptance speech, Cook recalled how the experience of seeing a cross-burning gave him a glimpse of “the devastating impacts of discrimination.” The Apple CEO concluded his speech with a challenge directed at young people to push for more human rights for all and to “vote against discrimination” and “advocate for immigration reform.”
Follow Nathanael on Twitter (@ArnoldEtan_WSCS)