Samuel DuBois Cook in his faculty office at Duke University. © 1966 Duke University Archives

Founded in 1997, the Samuel DuBois Cook Society honors Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, who was the first African-American faculty member hired and tenured at Duke University. The Society also recognizes his contributions as a member of the Duke University Board of Trustees and honors his later work as President of Dillard University. At its inception, the mission of the Samuel DuBois Cook Society was to provide a forum for analysis of issues with particular impact on African Americans; address the organizational issues that impede the creation of a sense of community; examine the historical experiences of the diversity represented at Duke in order to develop an enlightened appreciation of each group; and enhance the University’s capacity for becoming a truly inclusive community.

The Society takes its mission from the late Dr. Cook, who dedicated his professional life to social justice. While at Duke, he championed the rights of non-academic employees, promoted Black student access, mentored junior faculty, and enhanced the University’s relationship with the Black community. He also sought to strengthen relations between Black and Jewish people—work that he carried out on the national level as well. A close personal friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Cook always shared Dr. King’s vision of the beloved community.

A native of Griffin, GA, he was the son of the Rev. and Mrs. M.E. Cook. He received an A.B. degree from Morehouse College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from The Ohio State University. He taught at Southern University, Atlanta University, the University of Illinois, UCLA, and Duke University. In 1966 while at Duke, he was appointed Professor in its political science department, making him the first African-American professor to hold a regular faculty appointment at any Southern predominantly white college or university

Nine years after his appointment to Duke, he was chosen to serve as president of Dillard University, a historically black liberal arts institution in New Orleans. He served as president for 22 years, retiring in 1997. During his tenure at Dillard, President Cook initiated a Japanese language studies program (the first at a historically black college) and founded the National Center for Black-Jewish Relations. A member of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, Dr. Cook is a Korean War veteran and a former ordained deacon at White Rock Baptist Church in Durham, NC. He received honorary degrees from Morehouse College, The Ohio State University, Dillard University, Illinois College, Duke University, the University of New Orleans, and Chicago Theological Seminary.

Dr. Cook was the first black president of the Southern Political Science Association and also served as the vice president of the American Political Science Association. He was president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc. from 1999-2001, and chair of the Presidents of the United Negro College Fund. He served as a member of the Duke University Board of Trustees from 1981 to 1993. In 1993, Dillard University honored Dr. Cook by naming the school's new fine arts and communication center after him. That same year, he was elected by Duke University's Board of Trustees as a Trustee Emeritus. In 2006, Duke’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Social Sciences established a postdoctoral fellowship in his honor. The Ohio State University established the Samuel DuBois Cook Summer Academy and the Samuel DuBois Cook graduate fellowship in Political Science.

Dr. Cook continued to lecture at universities and colleges around the country until his death on May 29, 2017. He is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Mrs. Sylvia F. Cook, their children Samuel DuBois Cook Jr. and Karen J. Cook, and Samuel DuBois Cook Jr.’s two children with his wife Nicole Peoples Cook, Alexandra Renee Cook and Samuel DuBois Cook III.