Paul M. Cook ’47
Date posted: January 13, 2021, 8:15 am
December 14, 2020
Paul M. Cook, age 96, passed away peacefully on December 14, 2020, with his wife, Marcia, by his side. Paul is survived by his son, Gavin (Cecilia), his step-children Richard Souter (Mary) and Susan Lengyel, and his grandchildren, Maxwell and Liliha Cook, Elizabeth, Nick, and Luke Souter, Andrew Souter, Allison Groton, Steven Groton, and Chance Lengyel.
Paul was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey on April 25, 1924. He developed an interest in chemistry at a young age, advancing from a basement laboratory in his parents’ home to studying chemical engineering at MIT. In 1943, he put his education on hold to enlist in the army. In the Army Specialized Training Program, he studied mechanical engineering for two terms at Stanford University. As a lieutenant, he joined the famed 10th Mountain Division, serving in combat in Italy toward the end of WW II. Upon completion of his military service, he returned to MIT, completing his degree in 1947.
Paul loved the Bay Area for its beauty and pioneering spirit and was determined to call it home. In 1948, he returned to the Bay Area as the 48th employee at SRI International. He returned to SRI years later as a director and served as chairman from 1993 to 1998.
In 1957, starting from a tiny building in Redwood City, he founded Raychem Corporation to develop commercial applications for an entirely new field: radiation chemistry. With offices in more than 40 countries and thousands of employees, Paul served as CEO of this Fortune 500 company until 1990, inspiring a new generation of innovators through his leadership.
Paul received many awards in his lifetime. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan presented Paul with the National Medal of Technology for creating a worldwide chemically based industry. He also received the Winthop Sears Medal from the Chemical Industry Association, and he was named to the San Francisco Bay Area Business Hall of Fame in 1999.
Paul, in his spirit of giving back, was very active in his alma mater, MIT, serving as chair of the chemical department and becoming a member of the MIT Corporation.
Paul loved new technology, innovators, and doers. After retiring from Raychem, he was involved in many startups and new ventures. At his death, he remained as chairman of his latest venture, Vox Frontera Inc., a voice recognition company.
As involved as he was in technology and business, Paul was generous with his time and the sharing of his deep knowledge and experiences. He was passionate about helping those early in their careers, offering mentoring, insights, and advice. He always had time for his family and friends and was creative and fun in how he expressed his love and support for them, especially in his later years.
Paul was an active contributor to many charitable causes. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to Job Train in Menlo Park, the Raychem Entrepreneurs Gallery at the San Mateo County Historical Association, or to the Paul and Marcia Cook Fund for Innovation in Chemistry at MIT.
A celebration of Paul’s extraordinary life is planned and will be announced after COVID restrictions have been lifted, and we can celebrate together safely.