From the original Mac through the launch of the iPhone and iPad, Apple has changed the world with its products. Under Tim Cook’s leadership, Apple continues to astound customers all over the world with its innovative products and incredibly beautiful retail stores.
The second of three sons, Cook was raised in Robertsdale, Alabama. Upon graduation from Robertsdale High School in 1978, he enrolled at Auburn University, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering in 1982. Six years later, Cook completed his education at Duke University where he earned an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business. While at Duke, Cook was named a Fuqua Scholar, an honor only bestowed to business students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class.
Cook spent the next 12 years working at IBM, followed by three years at Intelligent Electronics, and finally a brief stint at Compaq. To the amazement of those around him, Cook decided to leave Compaq, then the largest computer company in the world, for Apple.
It was 1998 — long before the introduction of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad — and Apple was struggling with years of declining profits. Cook, the new senior vice president for worldwide operations, helped set Apple on a course of transformational change. He created a more efficient supply chain by reducing inventories and closing down warehouses. In addition, he built strong relationships with external manufacturers by investing in them to create revolutionary products that got into the hands of consumers as quickly as possible.
Speaking at Auburn’s 2010 spring commencement, Cook said, “Working at Apple was never in any plan that I outlined for myself, but was, without a doubt, the best decision that I ever made.”
Cook later became responsible for Apple’s worldwide sales and its Macintosh computer division, and in 2007, was named COO. When Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs officially stepped down in August 2011, Cook became CEO of one of the most iconic companies in history.
As CEO, Cook has increased the company’s charitable giving and continued to improve the working conditions for millions of workers in the company’s supply chain. Last year was Apple’s most productive in history with more than 15 products released.
When Time magazine included Cook on its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012, former Vice President Al Gore wrote, “Like the great conductor George Szell, Cook knows that his commitment to excellence is inseparable from the incredible ensemble he leads at Apple. Szell was noted for saying, ‘We begin where others leave off.’”
In addition to running the world’s most admired company, Cook is a dedicated Auburn fan. He joked during his commencement address at Auburn that he has so much Auburn memorabilia between his office at Apple and his home in Palo Alto that they could be mistaken for the California outpost for Anders or J&M bookstores.
Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences is proud to honor Tim Cook with the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award.