“A lover of Philosophy, a humble British economist by training, a long-time Singapore resident and a dedicated Humanities and Civics Tutor, on call 24/7.”
“An expat who was more Singaporeanised than many newbies to and even born and bred locals in the Lion City city-state even before its metamorphosis into the Merlion Nation and international financial hub of today, Cookie was an extremely kind soul and endearing fatherly figure.”
“He read ‘Sophie’s World’ to his students like a loving, kind and devoted Father who reads bedtime fairy-tales regularly to his own children.”
“I remembered when Sherrie, our monitress, was so stressed by the pressures of academic life and difficulties of early adulthood in Singapore, and just unreeled and broke down one afternoon. Mr Cook immediately came to her rescue, to calm her down and to reassure her everything was going to be alright, like a kindest father. Today, she is a strong woman and a proud mother of three. Would have been impossible without Cookie.”
This is how those who studied at VJC – Victoria Junior College from the 1980s to 2012 remember their late Economics Tutor, and for the top 20 Humanities Scholars annually placed there, additionally as their Civics Tutor, “Mr / Cookie”.
Former students noted, during Pre-U Orientation, his uncanny resemblance in adorability to, (and the high LQ – Loveability Quotient – on Endearment X-factor scale that he shared with) one of Sesame Street’s best-loved characters. They immediately “baptised” him into the Singaporean fold with an original moniker – “Cookie Monster”. “Cookie” stuck, while “Monster” immediately went out of fashion and into disuse.
Jack Cook’s presence and decades of work were integral to the Humanities Department in terms of its Economics ‘A’ level and Economics ‘S’ level programme offerings at VJC. These formed the fertile intellectual training and rigorous educational grounding in Economics principles and theoretical thinking for generations of Singapore professionals – from those in Accounting & Finance, to Corporate Finance Law professionals, and to many in the Creative Arts, Performing Arts, Culinary Arts, Film and Design industries contributing both as professionals and entrepreneurs in Singapore and the world at large. Many more are top Consultants and Engineers.
Cookie patiently trained generations of current professionals to logically think out and analyse issues in Macroeconomics from theoretical principles stemming from Microeconomics principles. He understood and taught how a fluid, capitalist-type, free economy should function, and how pricing mechanisms should not be impeded, and illustrated consequences and effects of distortions in price mechanisms, such as price fixing by monopolies and cartels, price distortions caused by state subsidies whether to corporates, or individuals, and clearly articulated how theories of marginal utility and marginal revenue can be used to understand dysfunctions in any economy.
He conveyed the abstract theories of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” using a variety of concrete examples, and even provided them with illustrations and comics he drew on the marker board to entertain students when they felt the subject was too mathematical or too “dry”. His humour and adorability X-factor kept them interested and clued into important principles that affected their economic lives.
Unlike many other mainstream Singaporean students who were spoon-fed excellent summaries and notes, and aced the Examinations based on route-learning, he expected his students to have done their independent reading as homework, and to come to class to spar with him intellectually on a daily basis to train their “thinking muscles”.
As a result, his students were given a rare chance within the competitive and no-minute-wasted Singaporean system to take risks and chances to develop thinking skills and build critical and analytical tools. This helped them to become more aware and sensitive to issues like externalities and government policies that affect day-to-day, bread-and-butter issues, to become more vocal and critical, more multi-perspective, more objective, more deep-thinking and creative when solving issues.
They also became more astute and aware of issues pertaining to Economics that affected their daily lives. They learned to use “economics-type thinking” in their everyday life, as little tools. Whether they are producers, designers, food critics, socialites, actors, lawyers, bankers, news writers or Administrators today, they are all grateful to him for their thinking skills.
Cookie’s past lessons remain relevant for many current Singapore-based or Singapore-originated finance professionals and thought leaders based in ASEAN or in cities like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, London, New York, Hong Kong, Paris and New Zealand. Faced with a turbulent sea of change, both due to technological shifts and political control and conflicts, these lessons remain valid.
He was an indomitable spirit and extremely patient and loving teacher who got students to ‘think like economists’.
Born John Robert Alfred Cook, he was never known as “John” at VJC but rather as “Jack”. Many students even referred to Cookie and Mrs Cook as “Jack and Sue”. Mr Jack R A Cook returned to the Lord on early Friday morning, at approximately 2:00 am (GMT) in the UK. His call from the Lord came after nearly seven years of protracted battle, which he fought as bravely as how Jacob wrestled with the Angels of the Lord before seeing Him face-to-face.
After about more than 20 years in Singapore, he was first given the medical diagnosis in Singapore metastatic renal cancer , just when he was about to retire. Upon putting on his brave armour of “hope, courage and faith”, Mr. Cook handed in his letter, and went on to battle. The nasty went into remission during miraculous moments for years. He could even enjoy happy tours to Spain with his missus, and enjoy his favourite meals. He remained happy and relatively healthy and showered with love by his family and visitors. He strongly passed the five-year survival rate, and scored among the top 28.8% of brave cancer survivors.
This came after the Jurong oil refineries boom, followed by Fukushima and spates of intensive Indonesian haze-caused smothering fog.
However, this summer, while his spiritual condition ameliorated to perfection, his bodily condition took a sudden turn, especially this hot August. Who can resist the Face of the Lord after seeing Him? Neither could our Cookie. Although we put on our best and most loving behaviour to make Him suffer still and stay our on side, our combined Loving kindnesses cannot beat the Beauty of perfection and Comfort of God’s Loving Face.
“And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” – – Exodus 33:20, KJV
On his last journey back to the Lord, Mr Jack Cook, or Mr/ Cookie, as he was affectionately known by his students, was widely beloved. In his last hour, Cookie was accompanied by faithful close family members.
The close family of Cookie lovingly kept vigil by his bedside on his last journey back to the Lord.
Photo: Cookie was a proud father of Ellen, who recently became Ordained as a Priest in mid- 2018. You can see his proud wife and photographer, Susan/Sue, sporting the latest new hairstyle in the reflective background.
A Facebook message was posted on 24 August at 8:49 am by Mrs Cook, his greatest lover of a lifetime, only wife lifelong, and best buddy.
My love died peacefully at 2am this morning. Ellen, his sister Lizzie and brotherinlaw Dave were with us. Feeling numb but glad he is now with God. Awful for us but far, far better for him.
He is survived by his wife, Susan, who ran a Singapore-based English-language editing consultancy, and his daughter, Mrs Ellen Turtle, who graduated from Tanjong Katong Girls’ School (TKGS) and VJC, before attending Durham University.
While training for priesthood, Ellen also loyally and courageously caregave for both her father and husband at the same time, both needing oncological medical support at the same time. She is still caring for her husband and son.
Being equally prodigious as her father, Ellen also read Theology and is qualified in Divinity. Mr “Cookie” most recently attended her Ordination in summer 2018 in Greater London. He was 68 years old.
Mr and Mrs Cook had even invited former 94A51 students to England on visits and showed former students around their new retirement home located in a quaint and quiet English village, after being forced to suddenly move twice by the international political imbroglio post-GFC.
(For Photos, please add Hong Ying, Noelle and Michelle on your Facebook to view their personal albums of memories.)
They had first relocated from East Coast-Bedok where they had formerly held generous poolside barbecues for years as welcoming parties for incoming students, to finally retire in a pleasant country house near Carcasonne, France, where Mr Cook enjoyed his gardening in the gentle climes of Southern France. Then, they most recently went back to England just before one Christmas at the onset of the 2016 EU-Brexit saga when politics and banks in France went absolutely bonkers.
Noelle Singh née Tan, a top Anglican High School scholar to VJC, remembered the intense stress and competition at the elite JC. She persevered. Her struggles paid off and ended in ecstatic joy after scoring the highest possible grade, “Distinction”, for Economics ‘S’ level under Mr Cook’s patient tutelage for two complete years.
Normally, even admitted Oxbridge scholars may not have attained this grade at the age of 18. Only some among the crème de la crème in Oxbridge may have earned this academic honour.
Mrs Noelle Singh née Tan believes that this will not have been at all possible without his kindness, gentleness and extreme patience at explaining abstract S-level concepts like Game Theory or in Austrian Economics to her for over two complete years, including many additional explanations and intellectual training sessions after classes.
She also dutifully attended the Retirement and Farewell Party the Cooks organised in November 2012 and kept up her close friendship with the Cook family for over 20 years, recently kept in close contact with them and even personally visiting the convalescent ex-Tutor in Sheffield, England.
Mr Cook is seen here posing with his Singaporean Community and former students at his Farewell Party. Noelle is seen standing tall and proud with Mrs. Cook while Legal Eagle small (but now tall) Wendy, Design Honcho Michelle and Pastor Big Wendy all smile lovingly, while the rest of VJC community poses with Cookie. PHOTO: FACEBOOK
Miss Michelle Loh, formerly from CHIJ Katong Convent and Dunman High School, had won a French LEP (Language Elective Programme) scholarship to VJC. She attended the same Humanities Scholar class that Mr Cook taught, before embarking on the difficult journey to a successful career as a Dual Urban Planner and Urban Interior Architect.
“[This] is so sad,” despite her busy schedule, she expressed her condolences in an e-mail filled with distraught, melancholy and nostalgia for times gone by. She had personally visited the Cooks within one year of his demise to pray quietly for him and to wish him well.
Mr Cook was so pleased that he wrote on Facebook, “it looks like my 94A51 class came up top again.“
Ms. Ong, Hong Ying (Fengying), the only Singapore Government Scholar to London School of Economics (LSE) from 94A51, also took time out of her busy work and family schedule, to visit the Cooks. In her e-mail from Singapore, she expressed she was very sad about Cookie’s passing. The Government scholar and former Humanities Scholar wrote,
“Even though I was not particularly close to him/Sue, as a student, I owe him a lot.” Hong Ying had flown all the way from Singapore to the UK just to visit Eckington to see Mr Cook and bring some Singaporean warmth and smiles, to help the caregiving Mrs Cook out and to report the latest Singaporean news to Cookie.
They are pictured below beaming, with Cookie commenting “Young Rebel and Old Hippy” and with Hong Ying “liking” this comment.
Do you have other special memories with Cookie? Please share.
Our Mr Cookie will be sorely missed until the end of time.
Mr Cook’s students and where they are today
Among his notable former students are Singapore’s pioneering batch of mini-urban-space Interior Architect, Ms Michelle Loh (second from right), former head at Design Singapore, responsible for the literally back-breaking transformation of former St Anthony’s Convent into the ultra-moderne Design Centre in Downtown Core (NDC) (111 Middle Road) after carrying out field studies in EU states such as Denmark; she literally sliced a slice of Design Denmark and transplanted it to the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple neighbourhood. She would not have understood the concept of budgeting and the market demand and supply for the international tourist’s appetite for architectural designs in the design entries she helped curate and select, otherwise.
Ms. Wendy Tay, RGS top scholar to Humanities Scholar, University of Singapore’s elite circle of stellar-performing top Arts graduates, former executive at SingHealth (formerly with TTS Hospital), current Pastor at several church-planting Missions in Metropolitan Singapore; she would not have been able to analyse revenue and expenses on accounting sheets for hospitals, and non-profits and charities, like Churches, otherwise.
Mrs Noelle Singh née Tan, Bristol University Sociology graduate and CEO of Sixth Sense Public Relations, responsible for internationalising marketing for F&B establishments of Clarke Quay, for which she was voted top local women entrepreneurs under 40; she would not have been able to market plain Singapore foodfare as upmarket Veblen type entertainment, goods and services, otherwise.
Mr Paul Lim, long-haul ACS / GEP boy, Oxford graduate and investment bank professional at Bank of America in London, and rumoured to be “one of the most eligible bachelors in the Straits Chinese international community”; he would not have been able to understand market demand and supply for capital investments, or been able to stay adept without firm grounding in Macroeconomics fundamentals and structures, otherwise.
Ivy League crème de la crème scholar and most well-read Straits Chinese literati member, top girl from Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) Toa Payoh – Mrs Jan Barbara Choo née Chua and decades-long full-time Ministry of Defence Civil Servant and Political Science Analyst; she would not have been able to analyse Defence investments and budgets without understanding the international price mechanisms for armaments and anti-Terrorism security services and market price fixing otherwise.
Ms. Wendy Low, recently-wedded top Singapore Intellectual Property lawyer and top Singaporean law firm Partner, former full Humanities Scholar at VJC, top scorer from River Valley High, bilingual Special Assisted Plan (SAP) scholar, currently sitting on the board of the Buddhist Film Festival in Singapore and a world travel aficionado (she most recently even travelled to Bishkek and its environs), she would not have been able to understand litigants and their conflicts of issues when it came to market competition and the validity of claims of copyright infringement based on product differentiation otherwise.
Prof. Ernest Lim, top graduate from Harvard and Oxford Law Schools, one of University of Singapore Law School’s top students, Humanities Scholar at VJC, currently Corporate Law Professor (Assoc.) and former U.S. white-shoe corporate lawyer in Hong Kong SAR; he would not have been able to articulate how U.S. and U.K. corporate finance regulations applied to abstract concepts of market supply and demand forces surrounding various market structures such as monopolies, oligopolies and/or free-market competition otherwise.
Ms Ong, Hong Ying, top scholar and LSE graduate selected by Government of Singapore / PSC scholar and former VJC Humanities Scholar from Anderson Secondary, former Gifted Education curriculum planner, History teacher at Hwa Chong Institution, currently HDB high administration executive and Civil Service Administrator. She would not have been able to understand the invisible and ungraspable market demand for goods and services in government run monopolies and public services, such as the Education industry and Public Housing sector otherwise.
Princeton grad Mrs Oi Leng Schumacher née Lui, Swim Champ Socialite and Singaporean National Scholar, former VJC Humanities Scholar, McKinsey Consultant-turned Cathay Films Head and producer of “One Night in Taibei”, currently a Singaporean Society Lady and international film sales agent based in London, UK. She would not have been able to articulate the Veblen goods aspects and investment potential of her portfolio of product offerings, and the Inferior goods-type behaviour of her competitor’s counter-offerings during the market downturn otherwise.
Ms Michelle Loh, Mrs Noelle Singh née Tan, and Ms Ong Hong Ying, all Victoria alumnae whom Mr Cook taught in 1994 and 1995, had personally visited the Cooks in Eckington in the past year to pray for him, before saying what turned out to be their last good-byes.
Excerpts from Mrs Cook’s FB threads
Wendy Low Suddenly i just miss you so much ..thank you Mr Jack Cook for embodying love in every way ..words can’t express my sorrow and i find myself crying on a bright sunny day, even when I know you have moved on to a better place .. you will always be my teacher.
Ching Yee Wong I’m so sorry for your loss Sue. He has brought so much love, care and thoughtfulness and we have learnt so much from him as students in VJC and for myself personally from my early days with Ellen. Sending our warmest love and prayers to you and the family.
WenLin Soh Very sad news Mrs Cook, thinking a lot about all of you. A toast to a life full of light love and dry humour. I will remember Mr Cook very fondly always.
To send your messages and gestures of condolences, please initiate contact with the bereaved, Mrs Cook and Mrs Ellen Turtle.
Both Mrs Cook and Ellen are also on Facebook. You may still leave messages on Mr Cook’s FB account to mourn and grieve with others in your community. Just click on “Add” to those who are already his friends on Facebook.
If you know of any other ex-classmates, colleagues, relatives and friends affiliated with the College and remember Mr Cook’s love for them, even in passing, please update them.
DO NOT depend on the Straits Times to inform you of the latest news. They are in a period of transition and may face bankruptcy and collapse. Write your own news, publish them and forward them via e-mail and Facebook links. Hope to read your news too!