Dr. Mary Nelson and Dr. Gary Cook Debut New Book: "Miracles on University Hill"

Dr. Mary Nelson and Dr. Gary Cook debuting the new book "Miracles on University Hill" in the Great Hall on the DBU campus in Dallas

This semester, DBU hosted a book signing event for the debut of Dr. Mary Nelson's newest book, Miracles on University Hill: The Presidency of Dr. Gary Cook. At the event, Dr. Nelson shared that Dr. Cook, Chancellor, and former DBU President, approached her during the COVID-19 pandemic and proposed the idea of writing a book about the history of DBU, specifically throughout his time as president. Dr. Nelson began working on this project, interviewing dozens of people to gather their testimonies and eyewitness accounts and to learn how the Cook family impacted their lives. During the event, a moment of reflection on the life of Mrs. Sheila Cook, the late wife of Dr. Gary Cook, was observed, particularly honoring the impact she had on countless lives on University Hill. Her kindness and hospitality were known by many as she regularly held baby showers and hosted dinners for friends on campus in the president's home. Dr. Cook and Dr. Nelson were happy to share that Sheila was able to read a copy of the finished book before she passed away in January. The event ended with Dr. Nelson and Dr. Cook signing copies and speaking with the attendees.

In 1988, when Dr. Cook arrived on University Hill as the new president, DBU was in the midst of a tumultuous season. The university was on the brink of financial ruin, student and faculty morale was at an all-time low, the campus landscape was barren, and pressure from the board of trustees ultimately created a fear that the university’s days were numbered. Many people didn't believe Dr. Cook would stay and were unsure if he could turn the campus around. In the book, Dr. Cook recounted, "Instead of having some leader come in thinking they could fix it… I had to tell people, 'The only way we can expect this to work is for the Lord to intervene.'"

Dr. Cook's bold reliance on the Lord is a recurring theme throughout Miracles on University Hill. Dr. Nelson explores the triumphs God led DBU through during Dr. Cook's 28 years as president. During his presidency, DBU ended every fiscal year in the black, eliminated all debt, the campus was beautified by the addition of 2,000+ trees and the construction of new buildings, the international student population grew from a mere dozen to nearly 600, DBU formed new local and global partnerships with various ministries and organizations, and so much more. The Lord worked through Dr. Cook's unwavering faith and commitment to glorifying Him through every action and every decision.

Dr. Nelson highlights countless miracles the Lord performed to bless DBU. From cultivating new ministry partnerships to focusing on doctoral programs and international students, the Lord constantly had a new frontier for Dr. Cook to work towards. Dr. Nelson mentions the many people who assisted Dr. Cook, provided funds for new programs and facilities, and those on DBU faculty/staff who have dedicated their lives to serving the DBU Family. Each chapter reveals God's love for University Hill and Dr. Cook's radical reliance on Him around every turn.

In Chapter 5, Affliction and Restoration, Dr. Nelson recounts the fall of 2007, when Dr. Cook fell ill with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). He was on the cusp of his 20th anniversary as president, and suddenly, he was fighting for his life. The DBU Family rallied together to pray for their beloved president. Until this point, Dr. Cook had given so much of his time and energy praying for others that it inspired the DBU Family to reverse the roles and pray unceasingly for Dr. Cook's healing. Dr. Nelson tells the stories of how Dr. Cook remained a fearless leader throughout his thirty-two-day stay in the hospital. He continued to serve the campus and shared the Gospel with everyone he met at the hospital.

One morning, Dr. Cook received an encouraging email from Dr. Wes Moore, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, where he encouraged Dr. Cook by praying for his restoration. Dr. Cook spent the day meditating on the word "restoration." Meanwhile, Desi Henk, Assistant Vice President of the Center for Career & Professional Development, was fasting and praying for Dr. Cook when he heard the Lord command him to tell Dr. Cook that he would be restored. Desi was planning to visit Dr. Cook that day, so he went to the hospital and shared the message. When Dr. Cook heard this message, he was amazed at Desi's use of the word "restoration," as he had been meditating on it all day. The two of them immediately prayed and thanked the Lord for his promise of restoring Dr. Cook to his former health.

By the grace of God alone, Dr. Cook entered remission five months after his diagnosis. On the fifth anniversary of his healing, a special monument was erected on the DBU campus, "The Dr. Cook Miracle Bell," to signify the Lord's work in his life. At the dedication ceremony, Dr. Cook remarked, "Prayer is the foundation of the Christian life, and this bell will remind us all that even in the midst of an illness, our Heavenly Father will hear our prayers and be with us through the journey."

The importance of prayer is a recurring theme throughout the book, as Dr. Nelson highlights God's commitment to Dallas Baptist University in every chapter. Even as Dr. Cook announced his retirement, the Lord was already working through Dr. Adam C. Wright to fill that role. Dr. Gary Cook gave 28 years of his life to DBU and continues serving as the university's chancellor. The DBU Family will forever be grateful for the hospitality, kindness, generosity, and prayer the Cook family blessed us with throughout the years.

About Dallas Baptist University

Dallas Baptist University is a comprehensive Christ-centered university dedicated to producing servant leaders through the integration of faith and learning. With an enrollment of over 4,200 students, DBU's main campus is located in the foothills of southwest Dallas. DBU offers 77 undergraduate programs and 39 graduate degree programs in various fields, online college degree programs, and two doctoral programs. Get more information about Dallas Baptist University (www.dbu.edu) by browsing our website, emailing news@dbu.edu, or by calling (214) 333-5172.

Written by Cameron Billings

Cameron Billings is the Assistant Director of Written Content in University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.