Former Illinois REALTORS® Executive Vice President Robert E. “Bob” Cook, who ushered in an era of modernization and growth for the trade association during his 28-year tenure, died Wednesday in Colorado.
Cook is one of only three executives to lead Illinois REALTORS®, joining the organization at a time when the association’s annual budget was a scant $20,000. By the time Cook retired in 1984, the organization had grown to 23,000 members and had had been transformed into a leader in the fight to protect private property rights. Its budget had grown to $2.5 million.
“Illinois REALTORS® just celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, and it was humbling to look back through the archives and see how much of an impact Bob Cook had for more than a quarter of the organization’s existence,” said Illinois REALTORS® President Doug Carpenter. “Bob came to the association at a pivotal time, and his work created a firm foundation for growth and institutional strength that lasts to this day.”
Cook was hired by Illinois REALTORS®, then known as the Illinois Association of Real Estate Boards, in 1956. The association, founded in 1916, had weathered two world wars and the Great Depression. Cook’s hiring coincided with the housing boom of the 1950s.
Under his tenure, the association reached a number of notable milestones, including the establishment of the Illinois Real Estate Educational Foundation, the Graduate REALTOR® Institute program and what is now called the Illinois REALTORS® Licensing and Training Center. Cook presided over the groundbreaking for the association’s then-headquarters on Adloff Lane in 1972, and formed what is now Illinois REALTOR® magazine.
“Bob always had a vision for making the REALTOR® voice heard throughout the state and the industry,” said Illinois REALTORS® CEO Gary Clayton. “Bob’s work guaranteed that our now 44,000-plus members are known by the highest standards of professionalism, and he deserves tremendous credit for galvanizing member support for taking a greater role in advocacy at the state level.”
Cook helped guide the association through a landmark 1966 case which defined the legal role brokers can play in real estate transactions. In 1978, the association won a court battle which placed the state firmly in control of real estate licensees instead of local governments.
The association’s growth was marked by greater member engagement. During Cook’s time as executive vice president the association began holding its annual Capitol Conference and Spring Conference, fixtures in the REALTOR® calendar to this day. He was recognized as the Illinois REALTOR® of the Year in 1979.
The Robert E. Cook scholarship is awarded through REEF to students seeking training in association management.
Cook’s departure came as he helped usher the association through a financial crisis in in the early 1980s where interest rates soared past 18 percent.
Leo Sheridan, 1982 Illinois REALTORS® president, recalled in a video chronicling the association’s first century that Cook had an unwavering ability to think about what was next.
“Bob Cook always thought ahead about what was provided to the membership and what he had to do as an officer of the association, and how to make it work year after year after year,” Sheridan said. “He was interested in the association and making it a success — keeping it alive.”
After he retired from Illinois REALTORS®, Cook became a founding member of Cook-Witter, a lobbying firm in Springfield. He moved to Colorado Springs to be near family in 1995.
Survivors include his wife of 67 years, Jean; son, Robin, and daughters Cindy and Terri. Another daughter, Judy is deceased. Cards may be sent to Jean Cook, Liberty Heights, 12105 Ambassador Drive, Apartment 581, Colorado Springs, CO 80921. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.