Phil Cook remembered for helping shape UCC’s ministry on climate care
January 13, 2014

Phil Cook

One of the United Church of Christ's thought leaders who believed that religion and science could blend for the betterment of the world is being remembered for his steady advocacy for climate care.

Phillip Cook, a member of Peace Church UCC in Duluth, Minn., recently died at age 74.

Cook was part of the Environmental & Energy Task Force that urged the denomination and the 26th General Synod (2007) the need to recognize climate care as a concern.

"We will miss Phil's extraordinary leadership and dedication to the national work of environmental justice," said the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, which now carries the portfolio of work for environmental ministry and advocacy. "We have long been the beneficiaries of his ability to blend expertise, passion, and faithfulness on such a crucial issue that impacts all our future."

In his professional and private life, Cook's interest in energy and climate issues reached back to his youth experiences in the Congregational Church (before the UCC was established in 1957). His hobby of collecting maple syrup became a small business for nearly three decades, and he and his wife's solar-powered home in the woods of northeast Minnesota was a continuous experiment in green living.

His obituary in the Duluth Tribune reads that Cook "had a vision to teach the world to respect and preserve the beauty of the environment for future generations to come. His dream blended science, religious faith and hope for humanity. He was passionate about backpacking in the wilderness, fly fishing, skiing, pond hockey, bird watching, wildlife photography, mineral and rock collecting, and intelligent humor."

As a nuclear weapons officer for the U.S. Air Force, he married Elsie Unruh in 1963. They raised three children.

Employed by the U.S. EPA as a research chemist, Cook was awarded the EPA National Honor Award for Scientific Achievement, the U.S. EPA Silver Medal, as well as five U.S. EPA Bronze Medals and seven U.S. EPA Scientific and Technological Achievement Awards, as well as numerous other professional accomplishments.

Cook was born in Newton, Mass., and earned a bachelor's at Tufts University, a masters of geochemistry from Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colo., and a Ph.D in inorganic/physical chemistry from the University of Wisconsin.


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