For the first time in campus history, Duke University will name a building after a Black woman.
The sociology-psychology building on the North Carolina school's West Campus will be named after Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, one of the "First Five" undergraduate Black students to enroll at the university in 1963, according to the university.
Reuben-Cooke was active in the civil rights movement while she was a student and graduated from Duke in 1967. She then earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1973 and supervised litigation before the Federal Communications Commission and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, as associate director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation.
She eventually went on to become a law professor and administrator at Syracuse University and the University of the District of Colombia but remained connected to Duke, serving on its Board of Trustees and earning the university's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011.
She died at age 72 on Oct. 22, 2019, in Alexandria, Virginia.
The building that will now bear her name was opened about 30 years before the campus was integrated, according to Duke President Vincent E. Price.
"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 a university-wide email. "From this day forward, anyone who passes through its doors will carry on her legacy of accomplishment, engagement and lasting impact."
The university said the announcement from Price is part of a larger effort to engage with its history and find ways to honor contributors who have been overlooked. It comes amid mass protests against systemic racism and police brutality as the country grapples with the racial history behind the names of its schools, brands and businesses.
Video: Less than 2% of top executives at the 50 largest companies are Black
Follow N'dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Duke University names building after Black woman for the first time