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Librarianmakes ajoyful noise

By Terri Dugan

news@postbulletin.com

Anthony Cook tells himself that if he can focus on just two things — loving God and loving other people — then he can make a difference in the world.

You might not know the Mayo Clinic research librarian, but you’ve probably heard him sing. He offers his talent to help raise money for local organizations such as the Leukemia Society, the Eagles Cancer Telethon, Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative events, the Rochester Network for Re-Entry, University of Minnesota Scholarship Fund, Tsunami Relief, the United Way, and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Fund.

His community involvement helped earn him the Post-Bulletin’s 10 Under 40 award, given to 10 members of southeastern Minnesota’s business community for outstanding service.

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Started singing early

"I grew up singing in the church choir in my hometown of East Moline, Ill.," says Cook. "My grandfather, aunts and uncles were very active in the church and always sang in the choir. So, I started singing very early, even though I was not very good at the time."

Cook graduated from Creighton University with a degree in sociology. He then pursued a master’s degree at Iowa State University, but decided demography, his chosen area of study, just didn’t fit him. He returned to the Quad Cities, and worked as a library assistant.

"I enjoyed the work, and saw all the help the librarians provided," says Cook. "The Lord put me there for a reason, and I realized it would be a great field for me because it would provide an opportunity to serve others. I took a leave of absence, enrolled in the University of Illinois, Champaign, and earned a master’s degree in library science."

After graduation, he was a reference librarian at Moline Public Library in Illinois and also volunteered at a local medical center library. Another librarian, who knew of Cook’s interest in medicine, told him about the patient education center at Mayo Clinic. Cook checked out the Web site, applied for a position, and was hired by the Mayo Clinic in 2001.

"The job suits me well because I feel I am making a difference in the lives of others," he says.

Before moving to Rochester, Cook did very little singing in public, other than in the church choir, because he was shy about getting up in front of people. After joining the Rochester Community Baptist Church, where he sings in a gospel choir, the mass choir and the men’s choir, he deepened his spiritual relationship with the Lord.

"I believe the Lord sent me to Rochester for a particular reason, and he shows me I can use the gift he’s placed in me to encourage and support others," Cook says. "The first time I sang in the Gonda Building with pianist Jane Belau for the Mayo patients and visitors I was very nervous, but I just closed my eyes, focused on the Lord, and began to sing."

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At Seasons Hospice, Cook helps with library and office work, cooking, visiting or just sitting with patients and reading Scripture. The first time he sang for a hospice patient, she told him, "This is one of the greatest moments I’ve ever experienced," and Cook knew he was in the right place.

Opportunity knocks

When he was first asked to sing the "Star Spangled Banner" during President Bush’s 2004 visit to Rochester, he thought it was a joke, and admits to being even more nervous about forgetting the words than singing for a president. But, as always, he closed his eyes and just focused on delivering the song in a powerful way.

Cook was a semifinalist in a nationwide Christian Talent Search in 2005, went to Nashville to record his first gospel CD, "Where He Leads Me" and performed at the 2006 Gospel Extravaganza in Gary, Ind.

The project kept being delayed, and as a result, the CD was released right after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He felt it was a great opportunity to meet the on-going needs of many people, and donated all the proceeds from " Where He Leads Me" to hurricane disaster relief.

He believes someday he might be involved in ministry work full-time. For now, he teaches Sunday school, is a children’s story leader, and just became the director of the preschool/kindergarten children’s choir.

"There are many needs all around us, and I believe we are all given assignments based on our talents and gifts," he says.

Ten Under 40 is an annual series of awards presented by the Post-Bulletin to individuals who have tirelessly served the community personally and professionally to make their mark before age 40.

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