About Us

Four Decades of Service

R. James Cook is dean and professor emeritus, Washington State University. During his 40 years at WSU, he served from 1965 to 1998 as Research Plant Pathologist with USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) conducting research on biological and ecological approaches to manage root diseases of Pacific Northwest wheat; from 1998 to 2003 as the R. J. Cook Endowed Chair in Wheat Research at WSU, a position endowed with a $1.5 million gift from the Washington Wheat Commission to the WSU Foundation; and from 2003 to 2005 as Interim Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. From October 1993 through March 1996, he served in Washington DC on a 50% appointment as Chief Scientist for the USDA’s National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program.

In addition to some 200 peer-reviewed journal papers and book chapters, he has co-authored three books: Biological Control of Plant Pathogens (1974), The Nature and Practice of Biological Control of Plant Pathogens (1983), and Wheat Health Management (1981), and authored Untold Stories: Forty Years of Field Research on Root Diseases of Wheat (2017). In 1988, he led the team of researchers at Washington State University in cooperation with Monsanto Company, St. Louis, that made the first field test of a genetically modified organism in the Pacific Northwest, which was a microorganism for root disease control on wheat.

Professional and Personal

Cook’s professional awards include Superior Service Award, Distinguished Service Award, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Distinguished Scientist of the Year, and ARS Science Hall of Fame, all from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Fellow, Award of Distinction, and Ruth Allen Award from the American Phytopathological Society; Fellow, Crop Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Japanese Society for Promotion of Science, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Recognition from grower organizations include Washington Crop Improvement/O A Vogel Award; Pioneer Direct Seeder Award, Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association; and No-till Innovator Award for Research and Teaching, National No-till Conference.  In 2006, the WSU Board of Regents named WSU’s newest research farm, the R. James Cook Agronomy Farm, listed with the WSU Foundation as WSU Direct Seed Precision Agriculture Research Farm. He was elected to the U.S National Academy of Sciences in 1993, the Washington State Academy of Sciences in 1988, and was co-winner of the 2011 Wolf Prize in Agriculture awarded in Israel.

Cook holds BSc (1958) and MSc. (1961) degrees and an honorary doctorate (1999) from North Dakota State University, a PhD (1964) from the University of California, Berkeley and served 12 months (1964-65) as a NATO postdoctoral fellow at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute in Adelaide, Australia before accepting his appointment with the USDA-ARS at Washington State University in Pullman. He and his wife, Beverly, have been married 64 years as of 2022 and have four children and five grandchildren.