Timothy D. Cook

The Story Behind the Story

Inducted in 2009

When asked about Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, those closest to him describe him as very quick minded with a soft-spoken, disarming style, making Cook the ideal person to diffuse the various crises that arise when leading the operations of a Fortune 100 company.

When Cook joined Apple in 1998, the company was struggling, and its inventory was measured in terms of the number of months of supply. He quickly re-engineered the supply chain and executed a phenomenal turnaround. Within a year, Apple was measuring inventory levels by the hour. Cook established a new management system and built a world-class team that has earned Apple recognition as a worldwide leader in operations. In 2008, as a direct result of his leadership, the Apple supply chain was ranked the best in the world by AMR Research. As a former colleague at Apple remarked, “He’s the story behind the story.”

Cook’s focus, the Apple supply chain, is not only about inventory numbers and operations efficiencies. His ongoing commitment to improving working conditions in the supply chain, an area where he has been a leader and innovator, reflect his compassion as well as his management skills. These attributes are mirrored in Cook’s current role on Nike’s board of directors as a member of the compensation nominating and governance committees. He has served on Nike’s board since 1995.

Reporting to Apple’s chief executive officer, Cook is responsible for all of the company’s worldwide sales and operations, including supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also heads Apple’s Macintosh division and plays a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace. Before joining Apple, Cook was vice president of corporate materials for Compaq and chief operating officer of the reseller division at Intelligent Electronics. He also spent 12 years with IBM.

After graduating in 1982 from Auburn University in industrial and systems engineering, Cook earned a master’s degree in business administration at Duke University, where he was a Fuqua Scholar. At Auburn, Cook served as the inaugural chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering Alumni Council. He still serves as a member of that group, and also serves on the College of Engineering Alumni Council.

Cook has also done his part on the fiscal side by establishing the endowed Fund for Excellence and the Tim Cook Leadership Scholarship, a merit- and financial-need-based award. Auburn’s industrial and systems engineering department chair Alice E. Smith fully appreciates all these contributions, but what she says sets him apart is that on each campus visit, he meets with students. His Apple credentials and friendly personality make him a favorite, and despite his incredibly busy schedule “he has not forgotten his roots,” Smith said. “He has made great efforts to give back to Auburn University, especially of his most valuable resource, his time.”

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