Former Dillard University President Samuel DuBois Cook dies at 88

Dillard University‘s fourth president, Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, who served in that leadership role for 22 and a half years at the historically black college, died Monday (May 29). He was 88.

Dillard University acknowledged Dr. Cook’s death Wednesday afternoon, calling the former president a “highly regarded” educator, public servant, author, and civil and human rights activist.

Dr. Cook served at Dillard from 1974 to 1997 before the University’s board of trustees elected him as President Emeritus. The university credits him for increasing student enrollment by 50 percent. In 1989, he created the Dillard University National Conference on Black-Jewish Relations. The university stated it is the only one of its kind.

“He definitely was one of the legendary figures in higher education, particularly for HBCUs,” Dillard President Walter Kimbrough said Wednesday. Kimbrough said he first met Dr. Cook and his wife, Sylvia, when the couple visited Kimbrough’s father’s church, Cascade United Methodist, in Atlanta.

Dr. Cook is one of only two presidents who served at Dillard for over 20 years, Kimbrough said. His last interaction with Dr. Cook occurred in 2014 when Kimbrough spoke at a church in Atlanta. Kimbrough credits Dr. Cook for establishing “the intellectual culture of Dillard.”

Dr. Cook was also credited for improving campus facilities and expanding student services by raising “significant funds.” His tenure occurred as the number of faculty members holding doctoral degrees increased, which strengthened the university’s curriculum.

“Dr. Cook was the intellectual genius behind the development of Dillard,” Kimbrough said.

Today, Dillard University has an enrollment of 1,200 and it ranks second in the country in black physics undergraduates. The university is particularly known for its nursing program, which is the oldest in Louisiana.

Dr. Cook was born 1928 in Griffin, Ga. and he received a A.B. degree from Morehouse College in 1948, according to Dillard. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D from Ohio State University. He went on to teach at Southern University, Atlanta University, the University of Illinois, UCLA and Duke University.

At Morehouse, Dr. Cook joined the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and was also an active member of the fraternity at Atlanta University. He is also a former ordained deacon at White Rock Baptist Church in Durham, N.C. He and his family are longtime members of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dillard officials said.

In 1966, Dr. Cook was the first African-American to hold a tenured faculty appointment at Duke, a predominately white southern college. Duke University established the Samuel DuBois Cook Society in his honor in 1997.

President Jimmy Carter appointed Dr. Cook to the National Council on the Humanities, and President Bill Clinton appointed him to the historic United States Holocaust Memorial Council, according to a biography from Duke University.

Dr. Cook was a Korean War veteran and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. He holds honorary degrees from Morehouse College, Ohio State University, Dillard University, Illinois College, Duke University, the University of New Orleans and Chicago Theological Seminary.

Dr. Cook is survived by Sylvia Cook, his wife for more than 50 years; Samuel DuBois Cook Jr., and Karen J. Cook and grandchildren Alexandra Renee Cook and Samuel DuBois Cook III.

A service for Dr. Cook is scheduled to be held in the Ray Charles Center on the campus of Morehouse College in Atlanta on June 6 at 11 a.m.

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