Doris Marie Cook (1924–2016)

Doris Marie Cook achieved many firsts in accounting, accounting education, and business in Arkansas. Cook was the first woman to receive the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation in the state, the first woman to be hold the rank of university professor at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), the first female member of the Arkansas Society of CPAs, the first woman to serve on and become president of the National Council for the Beta Alpha Psi academic honor organization, and the first woman to hold an endowed lectureship chair at UA.

Doris Cook was born in Fayetteville on June 11, 1924. She was the second of two children born to Ira Cook and Mettie Dorman Cook. Cook grew up in Fayetteville and attended University High, which was located on the UA campus in the old Peabody Hall.

Cook excelled academically and received many awards during her time as an undergraduate at UA from 1942 to 1946. She enrolled in the College of Business Administration as a freshman while many men were serving in World War II and student enrollment was low. Accordingly, classes were small and made up mostly of women, allowing Cook to receive individual attention. She had planned to earn a two-year degree, which was commonplace for women during this time, but she enjoyed classes so much that she decided to pursue a four-year degree. Cook worked part time for the college’s dean, Paul Milam, and established working relationships with many of her professors, other university faculty, and staff. Principles of Accounting, an introductory course, began her interest in the field of accounting.

She made the honor roll from 1942 to 1946, was recognized as the most outstanding senior in the College of Business Administration in 1946, and won the university-wide Senior Scholar Key award in 1946. To be awarded the Senior Scholar Key, recipients had to achieve the highest ranking in their college, meet a grade-point average (GPA) requirement, and receive a college recommendation.

After graduation, Cook became a junior accountant for Haskin and Sells in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was one of the so-called Big Eight accounting firms at that time. She joined the firm as its only female accountant. Cook was the only woman to take the CPA examination in Oklahoma in 1947 and pass the entire exam on the first attempt. Cook’s success was publicized in the Tulsa World newspaper and began to receive notice back in Arkansas, specifically that of Professor Walter B. Cole, the chair of the college’s accounting department, and Dean Milam. Because of the influx of World War II veterans returning to the College of Business Administration and the GI Bill financing veterans’ education, the college was growing and in need of an accounting professor. Cole asked Cook if she would like to teach. Cook accepted his offer and joined the university faculty in the fall of 1947. Soon after her arrival in Arkansas, she became the first female CPA in the state. Cook received her master’s degree from UA in 1949 and her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin in 1968.

Cook taught in UA’s College of Business Administration—now known as the Sam M. Walton College of Business—where she was the first woman and the first person in the accounting department to earn the rank of university professor. In 1988, Cook held the Nolan E. Williams Lectureship in Accounting, making her the first woman at UA to be awarded an endowed lectureship or chair.

After fifty years of service to UA and the Department of Accounting, Cook retired in 1997; she then taught part time three more years after her retirement. During her tenure, she taught most of the accounting curriculum and estimated that she had more than 10,000 students.

She had never married and had no children. Her legacy lives on through the Doris M. Cook Chair in Accounting, established in 2000. Cook donated $1,000 for each year that she taught at the university to help fund the chair.

Cook died on January 4, 2016, in Glendale Heights, Illinois.

For additional information:
“Alumna Is First Girl Grad to Become C.P.A.” Arkansas Alumnus (November 1947): 3.

Cook, Doris M. “Comparison of Business Careers of Women and Men Honor Graduates of College of Business Administration.” Arkansas Business and Economic Review (1973): 17–22.

Dew, Dorothy. “Miss Doris Cook Named to BA Who’s Who.” Guild Ticker (May 1946): 54.

“Doris Cook and Jim Modisette: A Tribute to Serving the Future Hour.” Business Perspectives Magazine (Fall 1996): 6–7.

“For Dr. Cook, Outstanding Career Continues.” Business Perspective Magazine (November 1985): 23.

Speer, David M. “Longtime Accounting Professor Doris M. Cook Dies at Age 91.” University of Arkansas News, January 8, 2016. (accessed October 1, 2020).

“Two Given Senior Scholar Keys on Honors Day.” University of Arkansas News (May 1946): 3.

“Walton Women: Walton College Alumnae Are Changing the World.” Business Perspectives Magazine (Fall 2009): 7.

Wright, Cassandra Drake and Charles Leflar. “Doris Marie Cook: Pioneer Arkansas Woman in Accounting.” Flashback 70 (Spring 2020): 32–42.

Paula Ashley Lawrence
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


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