Dr. Eleanor “Jo” Cook of Cook’s Pest Control honored with ATHENA Leadership Award at Women in Business Celebration
Dr. Eleanor “Jo” Cook, secretary-treasurer emeritus of Cook’s Pest Control, was honored today with the ATHENA Leadership Award at the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce’s 11th annual Women in Business Celebration at the Doubletree by Hilton Decatur Riverfront.
Named for the Greek goddess of wisdom, as well as the champion of justice and law, the ATHENA Leadership Award is presented across the world by chambers of commerce, women's organizations and universities. It is an international program and is promoted by local organizations.
“As the matriarch of the Cook family, Dr. Cook has both publically and privately lived out the values of the company that bears her name: honesty, courtesy, respect and a solid work ethic. That’s been the case from the day she became a co-owner nearly 70 years ago to today,” said Tami Reist, president and CEO of Alabama Mountain Lakes and 2018 recipient of the award. “Her generosity with her time in teaching and mentoring generations of men and women continue to have a long-lasting impact beyond north Alabama. She is a treasure and a servant leader we all can learn from each day.”
Dr. Cook and her husband, the late John R. Cook, Sr., became co-owners of the pest control company in 1950 when Mrs. Cook’s father-in-law, John L. Cook, passed away. Beginning with only one full-time employee and a handful of accounts, Cook’s Pest Control is now the eighth largest pest management company in the United States, employing more than 1,800 in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi. Throughout the history of the company, it has always stressed integrity, courtesy, taking care of the customer and making sure their company values are expressed in every user transaction. The company’s integrity was recognized by the Better Business Bureau with its 2001 National Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics. That same year, the National Pest Management Association presented John – with Jo by his side – its Pinnacle Award, the association’s highest honor. In 2008, Jo oversaw the writing of Employee Number 2: The Story of John Cook and Cook’s Pest Control.
In 1980, Dr. Cook and her late husband opened Cook’s Natural Science Museum, a 5,000 square-foot facility, as a place to display John’s insect and wildlife collection. Nearly 40 years later in 2019, the Cook Museum of Natural Science re-opened its doors as a 62,000 square foot regional attraction – more than 12 times the size of the original venture featuring a café, retail store, event center and educational epicenter for natural science. Dr. Cook serves on the board of directors. She and her late husband also were involved in the founding of First Bible Church of Decatur in 1965. The church is opening its second campus in nearby Madison, Ala., this fall. Mrs. Cook has spent much of her adult life teaching Bible classes, children’s Sunday School lessons, and leading overseas mission trips. She also has served on the Civitan Auxiliary, the Decatur General Auxiliary (now Decatur Morgan Hospital), The Junior League of Morgan County, Business and Professional Women’s Club, area representative for Christian Women’s Club, lay staff for Campus Crusade, a member of the Auxiliary Board of Directors for Titus International, and other faith-based organizations.
Together, Dr. Cook and her late husband had a son, John, Jr., who is married to his wife, Lyn. Jo Cook has one grandson, Brian, who is president and CEO of the company and president of the museum board of directors. Brian and his wife, Leslie, have three children – great grandchildren to Jo Cook.