Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke has now made history at least twice on Duke University’s campus in North Carolina. She becomes the first black woman to have a building named after her at Duke University.
She was one of the “First Five” undergraduate Black students to enroll at the university in 1963. As of Saturday, her name will be on an academic building, making her the first Black woman to have a campus building named for her, according to the university. The building that will bear her name the sociology-psychology building is on Duke’s West Campus and will now be known as the Reuben-Cooke Building.
“When the building that now bears Professor Reuben-Cooke’s name first opened, she would not have been allowed to enter it as a student,” Price said in an email. “From this day forward, anyone who passes through its doors will carry on her legacy of accomplishment, engagement, and lasting impact.” The renaming comes at a time when the US is reckoning with current and historical racial tension.
In a statement, the university said the renaming of the sociology-psychology building “is part of a larger effort launched by Price to have the university engage with its history and identify opportunities to honor key contributors to the university who have been overlooked.”
A native of South Carolina, Reuben-Cooke who was active in the civil rights movement as a student, graduated from Duke in 1967 with a bachelor of arts degree, according to the university. Reuben-Cooke served on Duke’s Board of Trustees from 1989-2001 and was honored by the university in 2011 with the Duke University Distinguished Alumni Award, the school said. She died on October 22, 2019, in Alexandria, Virginia. She was 72.