EV’s OUTstanding Virginians: Waverly Cole and John Cook – Partners in Philanthropy
When in anyone in the metropolitan Richmond area thinks of Dr. Waverly Cole or Dr. John Cook, we think of them not so much as individuals but, uniquely, as a couple. And, a gay couple at that, the first gay couple to live openly in the City of Richmond. Next, we think of them as extraordinary philanthropists. Indeed, as John has said, despite their many other accomplishments, they both wish to be remembered most for living “the true meaning of love, giving and how to make our world a better place.”
After graduating from the College of William and Mary and the Medical College of Virginia, Waverly began his career of service to others by establishing a family practice in Farmville. When the Army needed doctors in Europe, Waverly volunteered to go although he had already completed military service to his country in World War II, service for which he had been honored as outstanding captain in Germany. When St. Mary’s Hospital opened in 1966, Waverly was recruited to start a department of anesthesia. Over the years, true to his generous nature, he often chose not to bill patients he treated who were indigent. Late in his life Waverly donated his exquisite 500 plus collection of Bohemian glass and Meissen porcelain figurines to Longwood University where it is now housed in the Cole Gallery. In recognition of a $5 million gift commitment by Waverly and John, Longwood renamed its College of Arts and Sciences in 2006 for both men. As the plaque at Longwood reads, the Cook-Cole College of Arts and Sciences has been named “in recognition and appreciation for their beneficence to Longwood University,” a fitting tribute both to these men’s generosity and to their life together as a gay couple.
John’s career of military service began in WWII and included participation in the Normandy invasion, heroic service for which he was awarded by the French Government its Cross of War. After a 20 year career with the N&W Railroad, John first began his service career in education when he became senior counselor at John Marshall High School in Richmond. Then in 1967 he joined the Virginia Department of Education as assistant supervisor of guidance later rising to supervisor in 1975. Although he was honored in 1979 as Outstanding Counselor in America, he is most proud of his work co-writing and sponsoring in the US Congress the first ever Elementary Guidance Legislation. Toward the end of his career serving young people, John together with Waverly chose to endow an impressive 28 scholarships at institutions of higher learning in Virginia: the College of William and Mary, the Medical College of Virginia, and Long wood University. In 1985 they established the first AIDS Fund to care for young Virginian victims of HIV. Over the years they became charter members and supported the most important organizations dedicated to improving the lives and equality of members of the GLBT community: Equality VA, ROSMY, Lambda Legal, Human Rights Campaign, Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund, and GLSEN.
It was fitting, given their 50 year partnership in philanthropy that, in February, 2010, John accepted at William and Mary their Alumni Medallion bestowed posthumously on Waverly for “leadership and dedication to his community.” Together this outstanding couple have proved to be models of what service to one’s fellow man should look like.
GayRVA is the exclusive media sponsor of the 2010 Commonwealth Dinner. For more information about Equality Virginia and to purchase tickets to the event, click here.
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