Few athletic administrators in the state of Connecticut --
and, indeed, anywhere else on the planet -- can rival C.
Donald Cook for length of service or passion for and dedication to
each of his three employers, Sacred Heart University, the
University of Hartford and his alma mater, Fairfield University.
His myriad of accomplishments encompasses 48 years and is nothing
less than mind-boggling.
Indeed, including his three varsity seasons as a star baseball
player at Fairfield, the Mount Vernon, N.Y., native spent 51 years
in athletics in the Nutmeg State.
Some of his major honors in recent years include:
- Induction into the Fairfield County Sports Commission
Athletic Hall of Fame, October 2013
- The Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC)
Commissioner’s Award, September 2013
- Induction into the Northeast Conference Hall of Fame, February
- The All-America Football Foundation's General Robert
Neyland Athletic Director's Award in 2001
- The prestigious Gold Key Award from the Connecticut
Sports Writers' Alliance in 1999
- The ECAC Athletics Administrator of the Year Award in
Cook retired from Sacred Heart University in June 2013
after 21 years as director of athletics and then executive director
of athletics. Under his leadership, the university expanded
its intercollegiate athletic program from 12 to 31 varsity sports
and constructed several new facilities, including the $17.5
million William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center.
He led the Pioneers' move to Division I status, which began in
1999 as a full member of the Northeast Conference (NEC), the ECAC
and an associate member of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)
in men's wrestling, as well as a charter member of the Atlantic Ice
Hockey Association (AHA).
Included in the program development and move to Division I, Cook
guided the university through its first NCAA Division I
certification in 2007, a process that reaffirmed and validated
Sacred Heart's commitment to the highest NCAA Division I
standards. He was a recent recipient of the Sacred Heart
Administrator of the Year Award.
Cook chaired the Northeast Conference Athletic Director's
Committee for 2010-11 and 2011-12 and served on the NEC
Strategic Planning Committee. He was a co-founder and the first
president of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), a
former president of the ECAC, a member of the NCAA Council, and
served on the NCAA Division I-A and I-AA Football Issues
He was chair of the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA)
Executive Committee in its early formative years, and continued as
a member of the Association's Executive Committee while serving on
the league's strategic planning committee. In retirement,
he’s been retained as consultant to update the AHA strategic
plan. He formally served on the NACDA Football Executive Committee.
He chaired the Northeast Conference Baseball Committee and served
on NEC Membership Committee, and chaired the organization's Cost
Currently, he’s a member of the Sacred Heart University
Sports Communications and Media Advisory Committee, and is working
part time in University Advancement following retirement from full
time athletics administration.
He also made significant contributions at Fairfield
University. As a baseball catcher and solid hitter, Cook
starred for the three Stag teams and in 1963, served as co-captain
and received the senior class athletic award.
Appointed head coach in 1966, he directed the Fairfield team
for 19 seasons, transforming the program into a respected Division
I entity that challenged the traditional powers -- Maine, UConn,
Holy Cross -- for regional supremacy. Fifteen of his players,
including former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Keefe Cato, advanced to
In his years (1971-86) as Fairfield's athletic director, Cook
supervised the building of the Recreation Complex, the enlargement
of Alumni Hall and the renovation of Alumni Field.
During that eventful period, the Stags' men's basketball
team earned its first bid to the NCAA Tournament (1986) and made
three appearances in the National Invitation Tournament (1973, '74,
As athletic director at the University of Hartford from
1986-92, Cook oversaw the building of an $11 million athletics
complex as well as the program's emergence as a Division I
institution. As the Hawks interim baseball coach, he contributed to
the development of Jeff Bagwell, one of major league
baseball's finest hitters in the 1990s.
Cook earned three degrees from Fairfield: a bachelor's degree
in economics, a master's in counseling and a master's in corporate
communications. He did extensive post-graduate work in business at
the University of Connecticut as well.
In 1984, Cook was inducted into the Fairfield University
Alumni Association's Athletic Hall of Fame, the highest athletic
honor at Fairfield, for his achievements as an athlete, coach and
Cook’s late wife, Patty Hemenway, was a former
high-level singer-actress who starred in the title role of
“Evita” on Broadway and in the National Touring Company
in the early 1980s. She was a 1972 graduate of Sacred Heart.
He is the father of two children, Christopher, vice president
of marketing at Hitachi Credit America Corp. (married to
Camilla Mackeprang) and Dr. Courtney Stephenson of
Charlotte, N.C., where she is a board-certified obstetrician
and surgeon in maternal fetal medicine. He has
three grandchildren, George (13) and Julianna (10) Stephenson,
and Kirsten Cook (2).Don has gotten a new, happy lease on life
since his late wife, Patty’s passing. He’s engaged to
Deborah McAuley of Bedminster, New Jersey.