An early look at the Reuben-Cooke Building's projected $25 million renovation

The Reuben-Cooke Building is scheduled to undergo renovation as a part of Duke’s capital improvement plans for nine academic and research centers, funded by $25 million out of a $100 million award from The Duke Endowment commemorating the University’s centennial. 

This 92-year-old building is the focal point of psychology, neuroscience and sociology pedagogy on campus, with classrooms and offices accessible to the entire student body. 

“I've been walking into Reuben-Cooke for almost 30 years, and the coolest thing for me about Reuben-Cooke is that it serves so many purposes,” said Gary Bennett, dean of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, who used to teach in Reuben-Cooke in his former role as a professor of psychology and neuroscience. 

“It’s an instructional space as well as a very active research space. It is a space where we've come together as colleagues,” Bennett continued. 

Construction is scheduled to take 18 months, beginning summer of 2025 and finishing by fall of 2027, according to Adem Gusa, director of planning and design. During that time, classes that are normally held in Reuben-Cooke will be held elsewhere.

Originally constructed in 1931, the Reuben-Cooke building was specifically chosen for renovation due to its deteriorating internal systems and the University’s goal of modernizing campus facilities while preserving its legacy as part of the centennial. Aspects of the improvement plan include replacing the roof, mechanical and electrical updates and spacious common rooms for students. 

“[The building’s] systems (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) and components (roof, windows, etc.) have reached the end of their useful life and are in need of replacement,” Gusa said. “In addition to renewal, the project will look at modernizing the teaching and learning spaces located within the building.”

The plans also include a prominent lobby with a display featuring Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, one of five students from Duke’s first cohort of Black undergraduates and the building’s namesake. 

In 1963, Reuben-Cooke and four other students paved the way for Black integration on campus. During her time as an undergraduate, she was a strong civil rights movement leader. After graduating from the University, she earned her juris doctor degree from the University of Michigan School of Law and became a practicing attorney. She was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1989 to 2001 and a trustee for The Duke Endowment until her death in 2019.

“Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke cared a lot about good instruction and strong education and pedagogy,” Bennett said. “All of that is absolutely taking place within the walls of the building that carries her name.”

Andrew Bae profile
Andrew Bae | Associate News Editor

Andrew Bae is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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