Cook, President/CEO of ARCO, shares leadership lessons at Mizzou Engineering

March 07, 2022

Jeff Cook

Jeff Cook

Invest in and know yourself. Have confidence in that person. Serve others. Pursue peace, passion and purpose and the gift of joy, and others will follow. Those were just a few words of wisdom Jeff Cook, CiE ’83, shared with Mizzou Engineering students during an Engineering Leadership and Strategic Communications class.

Cook is co-founder and president/CEO of ARCO Construction Company, Inc., in St. Louis and was the recipient of the College’s 2021 Missouri Honor Award. On March 1, he shared success strategies with the class, designed to teach fundamentals of leadership.

During his remarks, Cook stressed the importance of being true to oneself.

“I encouraged students to discover who they are and find confidence in themselves,” he said.

That means assessing yourself, enrolling others when appropriate, being honest about what your abilities are, and discovering what you love to do and what you can do to create value in the world.

It also means making sure your actions move you in a forward direction. Cook suggested students assess their habits to ensure that their daily activities support, rather than hinder, their goals and aspirations. That requires surrounding yourself with people who are committed to your success and you to theirs.

“Don’t compromise your values,” he said. “Perseverance is extremely important. Lots of people have opinions but you get to decide how you want to live your life and who sits behind the steering wheel of your life’s car.”

And always strive to improve by learning, Cook said. He does so by listening, being present, reading, asking questions and serving and learning from others.

At Mizzou Engineering, Cook said he was fortunate to meet professors who had a true passion for education and were willing to take extra steps to support students.

His civil engineering degree, he said, provided tools that he has been able to use throughout his career and has served as a foundation for his success.

On that foundation, Cook, together with his co-founding partner, Dick Arnoldy and many other talented partners and associates, have built a legacy at ARCO. Since it opened in 1992, the company has grown from a single office to 30 locations across the U.S. with anticipated annual revenues of +/- $5.5 billion in 2022.

Cook has co-led the company by example, saying he practices servant leadership. His fellow associates and colleagues agree. Many who supported his Missouri Honor Award nomination last year praised Cook for giving unselfishly to support his team and their goals.

Serving others is one of the most important keys to success, Cook said.

“You have to sincerely care about others,” he said. “We have a responsibility to share and pay it forward to make a difference.”

Gain an engineering education that prepares you to be leaders in the industry. Become a Mizzou Engineer.