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From physics to health care: Memorial gift impact will reach far

Parents of Madison, Ala. native Sara Elizabeth Cook plan memorial bequests to Huntsville Hospital and UAH
Story in partnership with The University of Alabama in Huntsville, October 2023

The life of Sara Elizabeth Cook, including her indomitable spirit and her love of physics, will be memorialized through two bequests from her parents, Mr. and Mrs. C.M. Cook Jr., to Huntsville Hospital Foundation and The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

Sara, the only child of Bubba and Teresa Cook, was born at Huntsville Hospital on May 3, 1985. Her health problems began at age 7, when she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which later evolved into cancer. Her parents say she fought cancer valiantly on and off for the rest of her life. She passed away on Aug. 14, 2017, at age 32.

Sara graduated from UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System, with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in accounting in 2009. She later returned to UAH to pursue her passion for science, earning a Bachelor of Science in physics with a minor in math.

The Cooks decided to set up a trust that would honor their daughter’s memory and benefit two institutions that had played such a large role in her life.

UAH will use the Cooks’ bequest to establish the Sara Elizabeth Cook Undergraduate Scholarship for Physics. The endowed scholarship will be funded after the Cooks’ estate is settled.

Physics “just lit up her life,” Bubba Cook recalls, noting that Sara embraced the subject with her characteristic enthusiasm.

Sara’s friends and coworkers at Synectic Research and Analysis contributed to a 24-page pamphlet filled with photos, memories and messages that describe Sara’s kindness, generosity, wit, courage and more. One person called her “a dear friend to anyone who met her, an excellent cook, a collector of board games and comic books, and a joyful participant in cosplay.” They distributed copies of the pamphlet at her funeral.

For the hospital donation, the Cooks recognized the roles all four Huntsville Hospital Health System facilities in Madison County played in their daughter’s life: Huntsville Hospital, Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children, Madison Hospital and Hospice Family Care. They requested that their gift be used in the areas of greatest need, which will help improve the health and outcomes of patients at every stage of life.

Unrestricted gifts like the Cooks’ bequest are especially useful for the hospital system, says Lynne Berry Vallely, planned giving officer, Huntsville Hospital Foundation.

“Generous gifts like this help provide cutting-edge technology and special programs that otherwise would not be possible for our not-for-profit hospitals,” Vallely says. “When the hospital does receive this gift, administrators will look at the needs at that time, probably with cancer treatment in mind.”

Sara and her parents have already made a personal impact on Vallely and the Foundation staff.

“You meet these wonderful people, and you fall in love with them,” she says. “Learning about them and their daughter, it’s very moving. We are deeply grateful for this family, their gift and the legacy it will leave in memory of Sara.”