MU Chancellor Richard Wallace said Tuesday morning that he found it difficult to keep his composure while announcing the largest gift ever presented to the College of Education. The $2 million contribution, made by MU alumni Harold Hook and Joanne Hunt Hook of Houston, will create the first endowed dean’s chair at MU, as well as a center for educational leadership.
At a press conference in the Reynolds Alumni Center, Harold Hook corrected Wallace, saying the $2 million was not a gift.
“Emerson says everything you receive creates an obligation to someone,” he said, referring to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Compensation.” “You must give back — this is payback.”
More than half of the donation — $1.1 million — will endow the Joanne Hook Dean’s Chair in Educational Leadership. Its overall goal is to improve student performance throughout the state. Richard Andrews, dean of the College of Education since 1993, will serve as the first chairman.
“We want to improve the way colleges of education educate and develop teachers who then go out and create better learning environments for children,” Andrews said.
The rest of the gift, $900,000, will establish the Hook Center for Educational Leadership and District Renewal. Its aim is to improve student performance in Missouri public schools using examples in management systems such as Model-Netics. Created by Harold Hook, Model-Netics is a comprehensive management and development system used mainly in the business world but is applicable in school systems.
Andrews said Margaret Grogan will head the initial operation of the Hook Center. Grogan is chairwoman of the college’s department of educational leadership and policy analysis.
“I was skeptical about what I could learn from big business,” Grogan said.
However, she said that after completing Model-Netics training while visiting Harold Hook in Houston, she was “hooked.”
The remark drew laughter from dozens of people, many of them leaders in state education, attending the morning announcement.
The Hooks have maintained close ties to MU. Harold Hook earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1953 and a master’s degree in accountancy in 1954. Joanne Hunt Hook earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1955. The two met when, as a senior, Harold Hunt led a campus tour for incoming freshmen — one of them being his future wife.
Harold Hook, who is founder and president of Main Event Management in Houston, has long raised money for, and given to, MU’s College of Business. Hook said he began to craft plans for a gift to the College of Education last September on Francis Quadrangle, while he and hundreds of other alumni celebrated the kickoff of MU’s current fund-raising campaign.
“For the last 10 years, I have been heavily involved in K -12 education,” he said, referring to the use of Model-Netics by the Houston Public Schools.
In addition to Grogan, Andrews and school administrators in the Kansas City and Independence school districts have received Model-Netics training.
“The real business of teaching and learning can be done better if good management is in place,” Grogan said. “If the school districts are properly managed, then they can spend their energy on creating a performance culture.”
Patricia Schumacher, associate superintendent of the Independence School District and chairwoman of the MU Partnership for Education Renewal Governing Board, thanked the Hooks for the difference their gift will make for the partnership program and Missouri’s public schools.
“I hope to see that through the Harold Hook gift, all administrators and teachers will be trained in Model-Netics,” she said.
Established in 1994, the MU Partnership for Education Renewal links MU’s colleges of Education and Arts and Science, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and 21 public school districts, including Columbia’s. The groups work together with students and parents to improve the state’s education system from preschool to college.
Phyllis Chase, superintendent of the Columbia Public School District, said she hopes the gift will allow her district to continue and expand its relationship with MU.
“I hope to see more progress made on closing the achievement gap,” Chase said, referring to state public schools’ failure to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards.
Harold Hook said he and Andrews share a vision for the future of education, in which cutting-edge ideas are continually applied to education.
“I have a close personal rapport with Dr. Andrews,” he said.
MU’s College of Education is the oldest teacher-preparation program west of the Mississippi and has 2,000 graduate and undergraduate students.
Harold Hook, who said he was raised on a family-owned dairy farm in Lee’s Summit and educated in a one-room schoolhouse until ninth grade, is the former chief executive officer of insurance giant American General Corp. His three older brothers also attended MU.
“I always tried to equal my brothers, so high standards were automatic,” he said.
Despite professional success, Harold Hook maintains a humble front.
“What I have done is not a credit to me personally,” he said. “Whatever great fortune comes to you is always, always because someone gave you a hand up.”
Joanne Hunt Hook — who still remembers panty raids from her days living in Johnston Hall — said she hopes that students will someday reflect on their donation and think, “Those old folks — they were here at one time.”