2020 Best Undergraduate Professors: Thomas Cooke, Georgetown University (McDonough)

Thomas Cooke of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business is a 2020 Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor

Thomas Barry Cooke

Distinguished Teaching Professor

Robert E. McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University

Professor Thomas Cooke is a legend. Now a Distinguished Teaching Professor, Cooke has been at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business since 1975. But he has been at Georgetown since 1971 when he started law school at Georgetown University’s Law Center. Cooke has been teaching at the intersection of business and law for 45 years and serves as the faculty co-director at McDonough Business School’s Global Experience Vietnam program. Cooke has been awarded the Distinguished Teaching Professor award at McDonough. And in 1996, Cooke was awarded the Georgetown University Vicennial Medal. He’s also received the Georgetown University Distinguished Teaching Award.

Outside of the classroom, Cooke breeds Standardbred racehorses. Cooke’s business has three trainers that manage two breeding farms. Cooke has bred a World Champion and world record-holder in Nuclear Breeze. “Today, he stands as a stallion in Maryland and he has been the father of many successful race horses,” Cooke says.

Age: 70

Teaching at Georgetown Since: 1975

Twitter: GUProfessor19

Email: CookeT@Georgetown.Edu


BA, Villanova University, 1971

JD, Georgetown University Law Center, 1974

LLM, Georgetown University Law Center, 1976

MLT, Georgetown University Law Center, 1984

Course Currently Taught:

Business Law: The Legal Environment of Business

Federal income Taxation

First Year Seminar – The Real Estate Game

Management Internships

Program Director, Immersion in Business and Leadership for High School Juniors

Faculty Advisor, Global Consulting Projects: South Africa, Master of Science in Finance Students


I knew I want to be a business school professor when … I first started thinking about being a college teacher while observing some outstanding law professors at the Georgetown University Law Center.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

My current research interests include efforts at reforming the Tax Code, studying business-related decisions from the United States Supreme Court and the role that alternative dispute resolution plays in the business environment. The most interesting discovery from my research is the evolution of Chief Justice John Roberts in a short span of 15 years.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… If I wasn’t a business professor I would likely be practicing law in the public sector. In my earlier career, I served as both an Assistant State’s Attorney and Assistant State’s Attorney for the State of Maryland.  I enjoyed public service. The more that I am exposed to the real estate sector, I think I would be a good real estate agent. Never too late.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

I like to think that I bring a certain level of excitement and energy to the class conversations regarding the role that the law plays in our daily lives. In every class, I open up with a conversation regarding the “hot legal topics” in the news. Those topics can range from State and Local issues, to Federal issues to the Global environment. I look at my students as “stakeholders.”  My responsibility is to give them and their families all that I can in helping them become the best business person with a respect for the law, willing to challenge the law when appropriate and establishing high ethical standards. I embrace the Jesuit tradition that we are in here in service to others.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Excited

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: You won’t believe the opportunities and challenges facing you.

Professor I most admire and why:

The Professor in my life that probably influenced me more than any other was Professor Paul R. Dean, the former Dean of the Georgetown University Law Center.  He represented the law at its very best: Intelligent, humble and a great sense of humor.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

What I enjoy the most about teaching business students is their level of academic interest, their willingness to offer and debate opposing views, and most importantly the one thing we all have in common: Our Love for Georgetown University.

What is most challenging?

Since I teach an extended class section of Business Law on Friday mornings and afternoons, the challenge is to keep student energy up as well as concentration. As I tell my students midway, “this class is the only thing standing in the way of your weekend.”

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Focused

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Lazy

When it comes to grading, I think that students would describe me as: Fair, balanced and transparent.


What are your hobbies?

As for hobbies (more a business), since 1984, I have owned a stable of Standardbred race horses. The business is engaged in breeding and racing horses. I have three trainers and two breeding farms under their control. One of the highlights of my life was breeding my Stallion Nuclear High to my mare Radiant Breeze and the result was the World Champion, Nuclear Breeze. Today, he stands as a stallion in Maryland and he has been the father of many successful race horses.

How will you spend your summer?

The summer of 2020 began with my teaching a four week, intensive course in Business Law with 30 students from around the world. Since March, all of the Georgetown classes have been online with a combination of the Canvas and ZOOM platforms. The class was very engaging and when I look back on teaching experiences, one of the best I have ever had. The feedback from the students was very favorable and encouraging.

My next mission for the summer is serving as the Program Director for the High School Immersion in Business and Leadership program. The 2020 three week program will be online with high school students from around the world.

Favorite places to vacation:

My favorite places to vacation include Vietnam, United Kingdom, Thailand, South Africa, Dominican Republic and in the US: Boston, Delray Beach, Miami Beach,  Ocean City, MD and San Francisco.

Favorite book/s: Reading about the history of South Africa.

What is currently your favorite movie and /or show and what is it about the fil or program that you enjoy so much?

Movie: The Irishman

TV Show:  The BRAVO network

Favorite type of music or artists and why? 

ABBA, Bee Gees

Happy music for my brain.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… I would encourage business schools to offer more global educational experiences where students can learn from one another. Georgetown does a very good job at accomplishing this but there is always room to grow. Business students must experience life on the global stage.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Companies must recognize and support the value in offering students meaningful internship experiences. Demonstrating business-ethics and service to others must be paramount.

I’m grateful for:

In one word: Opportunities

When I look back at my academic career, I am most appreciative of my students who have contributed to a meaningful journey full of interest and excitement. I get special enjoyment when I hear from a student 10 years later that they enjoyed one of my courses, decided to go to law school, become a CPA, or hold apposition in corporate management or consulting.

My colleagues have been a blessing. The time spent with colleagues is equally rewarding. Obviously, I would not be where I am today without the support and encouragement from many Deans and Deputy Deans as well as an outstanding administrative team. As a group, they have always put the needs of our students/stakeholders first.


“Professor Cooke made me feel like I belonged by letting me explain my opinions and helping me explore law studies.”

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.