Former GCU doctor showed his love for University
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Dr. Charles Cooke made house calls, and his favorite stop was Grand Canyon University.
Dr. Cooke, who recently died of Alzheimer’s disease at age 89, was GCU’s school and team doctor from 1952 to 1987, and the Health and Wellness Center was named after him. But that only begins to explain his devotion to the University.
Start with the fact that he strictly was a volunteer — he took time out from his medical practice to help GCU students and athletes. He could be found on or behind the bench at most basketball
games, one or more of his six children nearby. He even used his own money to build a student health center.
“Our lives revolved around Grand Canyon growing up,” his son Cameron said. “We were always going to athletic events, and Dad was always making house calls to people going to the school. He was very proud to be part of it.”
Such dedication was typical of Dr. Cooke, a Phoenix Union High graduate who served as a physician and surgeon in the Navy during the Korean War, then returned home to begin a family practice that lasted more than 40 years. He later was chief of staff for three years at Humana Hospital, now Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Cooke put in long days — out the door at 6 a.m., sometimes after getting summoned to a house call in the middle of the night, and would speak to his business partner at 10 p.m. on the dot regularly.
“Dad was just a different breed of doctor,” Cameron said. “He made house calls from the day he started to the day he retired. I run into people all the time who say, ‘Oh, let me tell you about your dad.’
“He was a fixture in the community even though he was quiet. He took his work seriously, but not in a self-important way. He just helped people.”
Jerry Conner, who got to know Dr. Cooke when he played basketball at GCU in the early 1960s, saw that caring attitude firsthand when he volunteered for a school project that the doctor was supervising. They became friends for life, and Dr. Cooke was right there in the stands for many of the games during Conner’s 33 years as head basketball coach at Shadow Mountain High in Phoenix.
They frequently went to other sports events together, and even when Conner left town to coach at Blue Mountain (Miss.) College, Dr. Cooke donated money to the fledgling program. Of course, Dr. Cooke also was Conner’s personal physician.
“There was this real special bond there,” Conner said. “The biggest thing was the kindness toward everyone and the willingness to help people. He didn’t want to be in the limelight. He reached out and didn’t expect anything in return.”
A celebration of the life of Dr. Cooke, who died June 9, will take place in the fall, his son said. Donations may be made in his name to GCU, the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute or Hospice of the Valley.
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or [email protected]