Duke University Renames Building to Honor Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke

The Sociology-Psychology Building on the West Campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, has been renamed to honor the late Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke. She was one of the first five Black students to integrate the Duke campus in 1963. She went on to an extraordinary career in law, academics, and civic engagement.

The renaming of the building will honor a woman who helped shape Duke’s history, first as a pioneering student and later as an adviser and a member of the Board of Trustees. Reuben-Cooke becomes the first Black woman to have a campus building named after her. She joins historian John Hope Franklin and campus architect Julian Abele as having buildings or grounds named after them on the Duke campus.

Professor Reuben-Cooke was a native of Georgetown, South Carolina. After graduating from a Christian boarding school, in 1963 Reuben-Cooke was one of the first five African American students admitted to Duke University. She earned her bachelor’s degree there in 1967 and went on to earn a law degree at the University of Michigan.

Reuben-Cooke then joined the Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering law firm in Washington, D.C., working in communications, antitrust, tax, securities, criminal, and general corporate law. Her academic career began in 1986 when she joined the law school faculty at Syracuse University. She also served as associate dean for academic affairs. Reuben-Cooke left the Syracuse University College of Law in 2003 to become provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of the District of Columbia, a position she held until 2007. After stepping down she remained on the faculty of the university’s law school.

Professor Reuben-Cooke died in 2019 at the age of 72.

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