Samuel DuBois Cook Society

Black and white portrait of Dr. Cook with Cook Society logo on his left

Founded in 1997, The Samuel DuBois Cook Society was established in the spring of that year to honor Dr. Cook, a retired Duke University professor who was the first African-American professor to hold a regular faculty appointment at a predominantly white college or university in the South. The society recognizes the years of service that Dr. Cook has offered to Duke University, to the cause of African-American advancement, and to the betterment of relations between people of all backgrounds.

The mission of the Cook Society is to recognize, celebrate, and affirm the presence of African-American students, faculty, and staff at Duke University. Members of the society commit themselves to the objectives to which Dr. Cook dedicated his professional life:

  • Nurture a sense of community and belonging for African Americans
  • Translate the promise and potential of African Americans at Duke into fulfillment and actuality
  • Foster positive and constructive interpersonal and intergroup relations within both Duke University's and Durham's African-American communities
  • Cultivate positive relations between African Americans and other ethnic, racial, and national groups on the basis of an enlightened appreciation and knowledge of our historic interdependence

Learn more about the aims of the Cook Society



2021 Cook Winners
2021 Cook Society Award winners, clockwise from top left: Charles Becton, De’Ja Wood, Michael Cary Jr., Nolan Smith, Tom Bonfield, Ajenai Clemmons, and Richard Powell.


Congratulations 2021 Winners

Each year, we recognize community members who follow Dr. Cook's example of social activism and leadership. View the Duke Chronicle ad .

Samuel DuBois Cook Society Awards


Ajenai Clemmons   Ajenai Clemmons, Ph.D. Candidate,
Sanford School of Public Policy

Ajenai Clemmons studies the relationship between police and the community and the factors that may harm that relationship. She spends her volunteering efforts empowering girls and women through leadership development, as well as working with young people from marginalized identities.

Nolan Smith   Nolan Smith, Director of Basketball
Operations and Player Development
Duke Men's Basketball

Nolan Smith oversees the student manager program. He has served as ambassador for Teen Cancer America, raises awareness of social justice issues in the Durham community, named a George H.W. Bush Points of Light Inspiration honoree in 2020, and recognized as the Tar Heel of the Month in October 2020 by the Raleigh News & Observer for his significant contributions to North Carolina and the region.

De'Ja Wood   De'Ja Wood, Class of 2021

De'Ja Wood majors in education and human rights and has served as NAACP President of Duke's Chapter, and Vice President of the Black Student Alliance. She has also served on several boards under the University President. Her community volunteering efforts include mentoring students, leading voter registration drives, and organizing efforts in support of historically disenfranchised, low-income communities.


Raymond Gavins Distinguished Faculty Award


Michael Cary   Michael Paul Cary Jr., Ph.D., Associate Professor in the
School of Nursing

Michael Cary prepares nursing students to care for a diverse and aging population by recommending patient-centered approaches to reduce health disparities. He has served in a variety of roles in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the School of Nursing and across Duke, including serving as chair of the faculty advancement and retention committee where he worked to implement strategies to advance equity across the institution.

Richard Powell   Richard J. Powell, Ph.D., John Spencer Bassett
Distinguished Professor of Art History

Richard Powell focuses on the arts of the African Diaspora and contemporary visual studies, as well as other facets of Black art and music.


Special Recognition Service Award Winner


Charles Becton   Thomas J. "Tom" Bonfield, Former Durham
City Manager

Tom Bonfield retired in 2020 after a 42-year local government career. His many contributions to local community management include recognition as (Durham) Wallet Hub Best Run Cities, #1 Citizen Engaged Community, #1 Digital City, and Award of Excellence ICMA Center for Performance Measurement, among others.


Distinguished Service Award


Charles Becton   Charles L. Becton, Former Judge North Carolina
Court of Appeals

Charles Becton is a Duke alumnus and former judge for the North Carolina Court of Appeals with an illustrious career that includes having served for 30 years as litigator for major criminal and civil trials and being included in The Best Lawyers of America since 1993. He has also served as President of the North Carolina Bar Association in 2008, served as interim chancellor for North Carolina Central University, appointed interim chancellor of Elizabeth City State University, and has taught trial advocacy skills for the past 35 years including visiting lectures and professorships at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Duke Law


The 2021 Virtual Awards Presentation

The presentations weer made at the annual awards ceremony held on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 via Zoom Webinar.



See the full program here.

2021 Samuel DuBois Cook Society Awards
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
6:00 PM | Zoom

Master of Ceremonies: Kimberly D. Hewitt

Welcome: President Vincent Price

Invocation: The Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery

Special Remarks: Mrs. Sylvia Cook

Award Presentations

Closing Comments: Kimberly D. Hewitt


Visit the archive of past award recipients



Get Involved

Society is open to all who are interested in our objectives and are committed to working toward the progress of African Americans who are part of the Duke University community. If you would like to stayed informed of Cook Society activities, please email your contact information to Megan Peterson at

Sign up for the Cook Society mailing list: Mailing List Signup



About Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook

Image of Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook as a young professor in the 1960s.

Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook was a retired Duke University professor and Dillard University president who dedicated his professional life to social justice. While at Duke, he championed the rights of non-academic employees, black student access, mentoring for junior faculty, the university’s relationship to the black community, and the relations between blacks and Jews — work that he also carried out on the national level. A close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., he always shared Dr. King’s vision of the “beloved community.”

A native of Griffin, Ga., he is the son of the Rev. and Mrs. M.E. Cook. He received a A.B. degree from Morehouse College and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from The Ohio State University. He has taught at Southern University, Atlanta University, the University of Illinois, UCLA and Duke University, where he was appointed a professor in Duke’s political science department in 1966, making him the first African-American professor to hold a regular faculty appointment at any predominantly white college or university in the South. 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, N.C. He holds 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. Dr. Cook 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 Trustee as a trustee emeritus. In 2006, Duke established a new postdoctoral fellowship in his honor in its Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences. The Ohio State University has 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.