Apple CEO Tim Cook has been named on Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list for the first time ever.

Former vice president and current Apple board member Al Gore summed up Cook for the magazine:

It is difficult to imagine a harder challenge than following the legendary Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple. Yet Tim Cook, a soft-spoken, genuinely humble and quietly intense son of an Alabama shipyard worker and a homemaker, hasn’t missed a single beat.

Fiercely protective of Jobs’ legacy and deeply immersed in Apple’s culture, Cook, 51, has already led the world’s most valuable and innovative company to new heights while implementing major policy changes smoothly and brilliantly.

He has indelibly imprinted his leadership on all areas of Apple — from managing its complex inner workings to identifying and shepherding new “insanely great” technology and design breakthroughs into the product pipeline.

Cook’s personal discipline, physical regimen and work hours reflect a philosophy summarized in his 2010 Auburn University commencement speech, in which he quoted President Lincoln: “I will prepare, and someday my chance will come.”

Highly ethical and always thoughtful, he projects calmness but can be tough as nails when necessary. Like the great conductor George Szell, Cook knows that his commitment to excellence is inseparable from the incredible ensemble he leads at Apple. Szell was noted for saying, “We begin where others leave off.”

Cook’s chance has come. What a beginning!

Others of note appearing in the list include Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson.

Apple’s late CEO was a staple on the list and appeared five times, in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2010.

Time has published the yearly list since 1999. The 2012 edition is definitely an eclectic mix, ranging from the hacker group Anonymous, athletes like Jeremy Lin, and politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Are you happy to see the magazine recognizing Cook’s achievements at Apple?

(Image via Time)