Today, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to rename the Sociology-Psychology Building after Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, ’67. A member of the first class of Black undergraduates at Duke, Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke was a widely-respected student leader on campus and went on to an extraordinary career as an attorney, professor of law, and senior administrator at Syracuse University, Georgetown University, and the University of the District of Columbia. She also made significant contributions to Duke as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1989-2001 and served as a trustee of the Duke Endowment until her passing in 2019. In 2011, she was honored with the Duke University Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor granted by the Duke Alumni Association.
“This is an historic moment for our university, one that reflects the equally historic contributions that Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke made to Duke throughout her life. Through her leadership, wisdom, and her lifelong commitment to justice and equality, she leaves an extraordinary legacy, one that will be forever remembered on our campus.”
–President Vincent E. Price
Resolution of the Duke University Board of Trustees
Adopted September 26, 2020
WHEREAS, Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke came to Duke in 1963 from Georgetown, South Carolina, as one of the first five Black undergraduates to enroll at the university; and
WHEREAS, Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke graduated from Duke in 1967, after having been active in the civil right movement, elected to Phi Beta Kappa, named a Woodrow Wilson Scholar, and elected as May Queen; and
WHEREAS, Wilhelmina went on to graduate from the University of Michigan Law School; and
WHEREAS, Wilhelmina had a distinguished career as an attorney, found a new calling in academic administration at Syracuse and Georgetown Universities, served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of the District of Columbia, and was a professor at UDC’s David A. Clarke School of Law; and
WHEREAS, Wilhelmina served two terms on the Duke University Board of Trustees, served as a trustee of The Duke Endowment, and was honored in 2011 with the Duke University Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor granted by the Duke Alumni Association; and
WHEREAS, Wilhelmina returned to Duke in 2013 for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the enrollment of the first five Black undergraduates and was honored by the establishment of a scholarship fund to honor the “first five”; and
WHEREAS, Wilhelmina died on October 22, 2019; and
WHEREAS, the Duke University administration wishes to honor Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, her achievement as a pioneer in integrating Duke’s undergraduate student body, and her distinguished service to the university; and
WHEREAS, the Resources Committee and the External Engagement Committee, having reviewed the proposed naming, have found it consistent with university policy and have recommended approval by the Board of Trustees;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the members of the Board of Trustees of Duke University hereby direct the proper officers of the university to designate the Sociology-Psychology Building on West Campus as the Reuben-Cooke Building; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board of Trustees expresses its appreciation for the legacy of their late colleague, Trustee Emerita Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, and her enduring impact on the university.