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IN Business & Leadership 2019

he recounted. “Unfortunately, I realized I had absolutely no

at Auburn, where he was a member of the professional

musical talent. Later, while still in middle school, I thought

organization known as IIE (Institute of Industrial Engineers),

briefly about becoming a lawyer, but then I realistically

he was nominated by his classmates for outstanding graduate.

concluded that I couldn’t afford to go to school that long.”

While giving his speech and modestly noting that he wasn’t

Lest anyone think that Tim Cook was born with a silver

worthy, it just so happened that a recruiter from IBM was in

spoon in his mouth, the evidence and the CEO himself tell a

this meeting, sitting in the back of the room. Fate was about to

different story. “I spent my high school summers working at the


Scott Paper Company,” he said. “It smelled a little bit there, but

“He came up to me afterward and said, ‘You’re not on my

I was earning money. And, during college at Auburn, I began

schedule for tomorrow.’ To which I replied that I had certainly

a co-op program with Reynolds Aluminum, in which I went to

tried to have a meeting with him, but his calendar was booked.

Richmond every other quarter to work for them. That’s how I paid

He told me he’d make a place for me. So, I went and interviewed

my way through school.”

and ended up at IBM. Life is like that.”

It was in high school that his direction in life would

Life can be “like that” for the best and the brightest. He

become clear. A love of mathematics led him to “pull that string,”

took a break before going to grad school at Duke University

which in turn put him on an engineering path. “Math and my

and earning his MBA, which IBM paid for “as long as I kept my

love of people directed me toward industrial engineering, the

grades up.” He graduated as a Fuqua Scholar in 1988.

most people-friendly of the engineering fields,” he explained.


Cook survived Fortran, and during his last quarter

But the Gulf Coast was never far away in his mind, Cook

“So, in college I began programming. I didn’t have exposure to

noted to the Tulane class of 2019 when he told them that New

this in high school in the mid-1970s, and back then we used

Orleans may be in their veins—and perhaps their livers—but

Fortran, which nobody remembers anymore.” (Fortran, derived

some folks at Apple have New Orleans in their blood. “When I

from Formula Translation is a programming language developed

was a student at Auburn,” he said, “the Big Easy was our favorite

by IBM in the ’50s for scientific computing.)

getaway. It’s amazing how quickly those 363 miles fly by when

Inside Publications

photo courtesy: APPLE, INC.

“You know, Leslie, I wanted to be a musician for a while,”

Profile for Inside Publications

Summer 2019 Issue of Inside New Orleans  

Summer 2019 Issue of Inside New Orleans  

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