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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Charlie Harrison Cooke, Mathematics and Statistics Emeritus Professor, Dies at 84

By Tiffany Whitfield

Charlie Harrison Cooke, full professor emeritus in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in the College of Sciences at Old Dominion University, died Jan. 27. He was 84.

For 38 years, Cooke worked diligently to help ODU undergraduates, graduate students and faculty appreciate the importance of applied mathematics. Prior to coming to ODU, Cooke served in the U.S. Navy.

"Professor Cooke impacted a lot of students in his almost four decades of teaching at ODU," College of Sciences Dean Gail Dodge said. "Generations of students benefited from his work."

"Charlie was incredibly curious and full of wonder," said Gordon Melrose, chair of mathematics and statistics. "Charlie - never Charles - was a big ol' country boy from North Carolina and never tried to hide it. In fact, he played it up if anything, and most people probably underestimated just how smart and talented he was."

Cooke was a founding member of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, which was formed in 1975 by merging the College of Engineering's Engineering Analysis Group with the Department of Mathematics in the College of Sciences. He played a major role in developing the new program and contributed greatly to its successful implementation.

"Charlie excelled in teaching and research, was a good colleague and above all a valued friend," said John Tweed, former chair of mathematics and statistics. "He had an infectious smile and an eccentric sense of humor with which he often charmed us. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him."

"He would tackle any math problem as long as it interested him, jumping from one distinct area of math to another effortlessly," added John Kroll, associate professor in mathematics and statistics who recently retired. "It was just pure curiosity that drove him, not the need to publish."

His areas of research were differential equations, numerical fluid mechanics and finite element methods.

Cooke received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from North Carolina State University in 1966. He held industrial research positions at IBM and at Bell Laboratories prior to taking up his appointment as an assistant professor of mathematics at ODU in the fall of 1969. He was promoted to associate professor in the fall of 1971 and to full professor in four years later.

Cooke mentored five doctoral students. He also published 70 refereed papers (nearly all of them while at ODU). He generated $234,000 in grants from NASA from 1970 to 1981 and the Army (1983 to 1987) for his research, in addition to University-funded faculty development.

Cooke retired from ODU in 2007 and remained close friends with Kroll. He enjoyed the outdoors, specifically the mountains, and was an avid tennis player.

"For someone who took up the game as an older man, he was good," Kroll said. "We played chess together and he almost always beat me. More importantly, he loved his family and God."

He is survived by his wife, Rose Marie Lee Cooke and three daughters, Jennifer, Kathy and Amy.

Interment will be in Don Lee Cemetery, Arapahoe, N.C. A service will be announced at a later date.

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