They’re not twins. Born almost three years apart, brothers Jacob and Justin Cook graduate from Union College next month. A series of roadblocks, life lessons, and surprising invitations, brought them to Lincoln and a dual graduation.
Jacob is the eldest, but people often mistake Justin as the older brother. “He is four to five inches taller than me and built like a football player! And I … am not,” jokes Jacob.
Living in rural Florida, the boys had never heard of Union College, much less considered spending years of their lives there.
Finding a home at Union
Justin was first to slinga da ink. After high school, he spent a year at a community college in Florida. He got a job and fit classes in where he could. School didn’t seem to matter as long as he had money coming in. But that summer it hit him. “I needed to change,” Justin says. “I needed to grow up. That meant getting out of the house.”
A friend invited Justin to Union College. “I didn’t know anything about Union. I didn’t even know where it was,” he said. Justin applied, was accepted, and arrived knowing only his friend.
Justin thrived at Union. He made friends, joined clubs, and won the post of Financial Vice President of the Associated Student Body (ASB), Union’s student government, his junior year. The role gave Justin a taste of leadership and responsibility. “And another plus, it looks fantastic on a resume!” he affirmed. “That really helped me when I had internships and applied for jobs.”
An unexpected bonus was the guidance and mentorship of Kim Canine, the vice president for Student Services. “She was concerned about my success in every aspect of my life, not only academics,” said Justin.
“It’s just a Union thing,” he said of the staff and teacher commitment to personal success for each student. “It’s really easy to have a good relationship with teachers. I have no problem calling or emailing them. Since you have that very personal connection with teachers, they are not only concerned about your academics, they are also concerned with how you are actually doing as a person.”
Every time Justin came home on break, he reported more good things about his experience at Union.
Meanwhile, Jacob was in a very different life stage …
Jacob left for college as Justin was beginning high school. Jacob spent two years at an Adventist university but felt unsure which path to follow. He moved home and secured a job with Adventist Health System. Working hard to prove himself, Jacob advanced through the ranks, soon becoming a corporate recruiter.
Jacob loved his job. But a nagging fear whispered, “You need to finish your degree before it’s too late. If you don’t, you won’t qualify for the position of your dreams.” Working 40+ hours a week and trying to take college classes on the side was tough. Finally, he decided, “I just have to go spend the year to get this done.”
Jacob queried many local institutions. Each college required enrollment of two years to finish his business degree. He felt frustrated because he’d already completed 3-and-a-half years of college.
That’s when Justin invited his brother to join him at Union.
Jacob completed his online application at 11 p.m. on a Thursday night. When he woke at 7:00 a.m. the next day, he had an email titled, “You’ve been accepted to Union College.”
“I could hardly believe my eyes,” Jacob says. After struggling for months, the answer seemed clear. “Well, God, I guess I’m supposed to do this.”
Jacob called Union to confirm he could complete his degree in just two semesters. the staff answered “Yes!” After months of obstacles, Jacob welcomed this great news. He quit his job and moved into Prescott Hall, a full-time student once more.
Jacob and Justin are both seniors studying Business Administration. The first few weeks were a major transition for Jacob, plunged into a different world. Attending the same classes and sharing some of the same friends brought these two brothers back together, creating new experiences and a stronger foundation of family connection.
“It’s been a good time for us to reconnect,” said Jacob. “Brothers are one of the closest relationships you can have in life.”
Justin chimed in, “Our lives were on a different track. Jacob was working. I was in school. For now, our paths have come together, and we’re planning our futures. What kind of master’s program should we look at? What kind of company culture do we want? What do we want for our lives?”
Jacob agrees with his “little” brother. They both chose the perfect place to prepare for their professional lives. “I have felt more support here than I have ever felt at any other university I’ve gone to. The Union staff went above and beyond. Sometimes I thought, I need to go check in with someone to see if I’m on the right track, but they would beat me to it and check in with me first!”
Looking forward to their futures after college, Jacob and Justin thank God for His leading and the journey that brought them to Union. “I feel that God placed me here,” says Jason. “And for whatever His plan is, I‘m happy to be here.”