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Honors and Awards

Sam Cook Inducted Into Forestry Leadership Hall

Sam Cook poses by tree

World Forestry Center has honored Sam Cook, executive director of forest assets in the College of Natural Resources, as the 2021 inductee into its Forestry Leadership Hall. Established in 1971, this award celebrates individuals who have made significant contributions to fostering the understanding of forests and their importance to society. 

In announcing the award, World Forestry Center’s Board of Directors said, “You know Sam as a 40-year veteran forester, educator, mentor, philanthropist, landowner, and landowner advocate – any of which would make him a fitting honoree. We are pleased that this award recognizes his success in developing and implementing support systems for historically under-represented landowners and creating pathways for young people to discover careers in forestry.”

Throughout his career, Cook has remained passionate about mentoring students and expanding educational opportunities to create awareness about careers in natural resources fields. Cook co-manages the Forester of the Future Program, a partnership between the College of Natural Resource, Tuskegee University and Resource Management Service, LLC, which offers an accelerated graduate degree program to students from underrepresented groups who are interested in pursuing forestry careers. Cook and his wife, Sherry, also established the Sam and Sherry Lynn Cook Fund for Outreach and Support for Diversity in the college to support the recruitment of forestry students from underrepresented groups.

After graduating from NC State in 1984, Cook went on to work for the U.S. Forestry Service, Duke Power, International Paper and forestry-related nonprofit organizations in South Carolina. Cook served as the director of forestry for the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, which provides educational, legal and technical assistance to help historically under-represented landowners. 

Cook also developed a youth program that introduces South Carolina middle schoolers to opportunities in the natural resources fields and is now working with several industry and governmental partners to create a program for students at Knightdale High School in Wake County, North Carolina. He also works with the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Network, which offers resources to help minority forest owners retain their land and become advocates for working forests. 

In 2016, Cook took on his current role as executive director of forestry assets in the College of Natural Resources, where he oversees 10 forest properties that support research and generate more than $3 million annually for the college. Cook also advises the NC State Natural Resources Foundation Board and is the liaison between the foundation board and the NC State Board of Trustees.