Maurice Cook of Raleigh, N.C., received his bachelor’s degree in 1957 and master’s degree in 1959 in agronomy from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and his doctorate in agronomy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
A world-renowned expert in soil and water conservation and a leader in the field of soil science, Cook taught at North Carolina State University for more than 30 years before his retirement in 1992 at the rank of professor. Throughout several decades his name has emerged as one of the foremost authorities in the world in soil conservation and water quality.
Cook taught more than 7,000 students in soil science and devoted himself to close mentoring relationships with scores of these students over the years. Cook has received broad recognition for his outstanding teaching. North Carolina State University named him an Alumni Distinguished Professor. He has been selected to join the Academy of Outstanding Teachers. The National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture bestowed upon him two awards and named him a Fellow.
In addition to building a reputation as an outstanding teacher, his prestige grew as he developed optimal land management practices and showed how implementation would lead to better agricultural production and to a cleaner environment.
In 1982, he became the director of the Division of Soil and Water Conservation in the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources. He led task forces charged with solving the problems of water pollution and soil erosion throughout the state. In response, Cook initiated the North Carolina Agricultural Cost-Share Program, the first of its kind in the nation. The program provides cost-share assistance to landowners who implement optimal management practices on their land to conserve soil and water.
In retirement, he served as a consultant to several companies, including the Research Triangle Institute. North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt appointed him as senior advisor for agricultural affairs for the state. He represented the governor throughout the state and the world on issues of better soil and water conservation management.
Alpha Zeta, the oldest agricultural fraternal organization, placed him on the Centennial Honor Roll, a recognition reserved for the 100 members who made the most outstanding contributions to agriculture in the past 100 years. He is a Fellow in the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil and Water Conservation Society and the Soil Science Society of America. In 1987, he served as national president of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, an international society of 13,000 members.
Active in his church and his community, in 1987, the North Carolina Baptist State Convention selected him Layman of the Year. From 1993-1997, he served as president of North Carolina Baptist Men.
Cook was inducted into the UK Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2000.