Dr. Robert E. Cooke of Oak Bluffs, died Sunday, Feb. 2. He was 93.
As medical advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, he was an architect of the War on Poverty program, Head Start, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the NIH, the Rehabilitation Act of 1963, the Kennedy-Krieger Institute, and the world-renowned institution for children with developmental problems at Johns Hopkins University. He served on the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research from 1974 to 1978. During the Clinton administration, Dr. Cooke worked with the Social Security Administration, successfully restoring significant benefits for the disabled.
Robert earned his bachelor’s degree and doctor of medicine at Yale University in 1941 and 1944, respectively. He served in the U.S. Army medical corps during his internship and residency years at Yale New Haven Hospital, 1944 to 1949. Later he served on the faculty of Yale Medical School from 1950 to 1956; as pediatrician-in-chief of the department of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University from 1956 to 1973; as vice chancellor for health sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1973 to 1977; briefly as the president of the Medical College of Pennsylvania; and, as chief of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in Buffalo from 1982 to 1988.
For many years Dr. Cooke was associated with the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and Special Olympics International as its medical director, and as advisor to Eunice Kennedy Shriver. He received the Howland and Bartholome Awards, two of the American Pediatric Society’s highest accolades in pediatrics and bioethics; the Kennedy Achievement Award; the Surgeon General Award, and honorary degrees from Yale University and the University of Miami. Dr. Cooke was described as a mentor to “a generation of leaders in American pediatrics.” Robert became a champion for the disadvantaged when he was faced with raising two profoundly disabled daughters, Robyn and Wendy. This challenge shaped his life’s work. He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Sharon Riley Cooke; his children Christopher, W. Robert and his wife Denise, Kim Cooke Himmelfarb, Susan Cooke Anderson and her husband Christopher, and Anne Ennis and her husband Daniel; his grandchildren Katherine and Brittany; his niece Heidi Shusterman and her husband Robert, and his dogs Vernon, Miles and Rocky. He was preceded in death by daughters Wendy and Robyn; parents Ronald M. and Renee Cooke and a brother, Dr. Ronald W. Cooke.
Donations in Dr. Robert E. Cooke’s memory may be sent to the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 1829, Edgartown, MA 02539 (memo: Susie Fund), or Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 1748, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.