Fresno State health dept. gets $1 million gift

Fresno State's College of Health and Human Services has received its largest-ever single gift -- a $1.028 million bequest from an alumnus that will provide scholarships for nursing students.

The gift comes from the estate of Air Force Col. Edwin J. Cook, who died in May. Cook, who had a 40-year military career, made the bequest in memory of his first wife, Lt. Col. Elvera Lindholm "Lindy" Cook, a nurse who joined the Air Force in 1952.

Andrew Hoff, dean of the college, said the gift will help address the region's "critical need for qualified health-care professionals." The Valley will be short as many as 20,000 nurses by 2020, according to a 2007 report by the Central California Center for Excellence in Nursing at Fresno State.

Annually, the university's nursing program receives more applications than slots available. An estimated 240 students are expected to graduate this year.

Edwin Cook's family moved to the area when he was 17. He attended local schools, then joined the Army Air Corps -- now the Air Force -- at age 18.

After serving in World War II, Cook returned to Fresno and graduated from Fresno State in 1949. He piloted F-94 Starfighter jets when he was recalled to duty during the Korean War, and later served as director of transportation for Military Airlift Command during the Vietnam War.

Also in Vietnam, Lindy Cook served as chief nurse of aeromedical evacuation and helped develop the protocol for seriously injured troops being transported by air. She died in 1991; both she and Cook are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Edwin Cook's wife, Evelyn Fuqua Cook, will be inducted into the university's Pinnacle Society at a reception today. The society honors individuals whose contributions make a difference in educational opportunity on campus.