Work ethic an important part of new scholarship

Richard Cocks

Richard Cocks grew up on Long Island, just a mile or two from the Atlantic Ocean. Yet it is rural Ohio students embarking on careers in agriculture who are going to benefit the most from this Farm Bureau member’s generosity. 

Cocks recently established a scholarship through the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation. The Richard & Carole Cocks Scholarship awards four renewable $2,500 scholarships annually to deserving students. Each award is renewable for up to four years for a total of $10,000 per student. The first group of finalists were selected this spring.

While grade point average, essays about personal achievement and challenges, as well as future goals were all part of the application process, there is one relatively unique essay question that Cocks thought was important to include. He wanted applicants to illustrate their work ethic and what it means to them.  

Work ethic is something he learned from his father as a youngster in New York and something he said is lacking in today’s society. “My father was a carpenter and builder and he worked really hard, six-plus days a week,” Cocks said. “I was expected to help as needed during the week, and usually on Saturdays. That’s just the way it was back then.”

Every summer the family would vacation in a small village in upstate New York in the heart of dairy country. The village, Breakabeen, boasted a general store, post office and about 200 residents. The work ethic his father instilled in him was part of the fabric that made up that small rural community. “I loved the people,” he said.

Remembering farmers

Cocks grew up and went to college, earning a degree in chemical engineering. He spent the majority of his career with Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati and still lives in Hamilton County. Yet, he never forgot about the farmers he knew growing up, and as he approached retirement, began investing in farmland, eventually acquiring a 260 acre grain farm in Clinton County.  

 “It was a distressed farm when I bought it,” he said. On weekends, he’d work with rural high school and college kids, gradually improving the farm. He has since sold it. The other farm properties he owns are leased on a cash rent basis.  “I never worry about the check coming in on time and in full,” he said of the farmers he works with.

As he learned more about modern farming, it became apparent that today’s farmers have skills very similar to most good engineers. One of his sons suggested he contact Farm Bureau about establishing a scholarship.  

“We are absolutely privileged that the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation is able to assist Mr. Cocks in implementing his vision of investing in students,” said Michael Bailey, Ohio Farm Bureau vice president of strategic partnerships, which includes the foundation. “One of the primary reasons our foundation exists is to help shape tomorrow’s leaders in the food and agricultural industry. It’s because of generous donors like Richard Cocks that we are able to do that.” 

Cocks and his son, Bill, want to have a say in who wins the scholarships and Farm Bureau has been able to accommodate them. Cocks said the scholarship established through the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation is a good legacy to leave. “I’ve been very fortunate in my life.” he said. “I’ve made good investments, like the farms, and I want to give back.”

Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation scholarships 

In 2020, the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation offered more than $70,000 in scholarships to Ohio students from all parts of the state who are pursuing degrees connected in some way to agriculture. Through 10 programs, approximately 50 scholarships will be awarded this spring. That is almost double the funds awarded in 2019, when the foundation awarded $36,000 in scholarships.