Vice President Kim Hewitt with the 2024 Cook Society winners: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove; Catherine Denning-Jannace; Rev. Dr. Luke Powery; Myrna Adams; Jasmine Hughes; and Isaiah Hamilton

Six Honored for Service Following the Legacy of Samuel DuBois Cook

Kim Hewitt, the current vice president for institutional equity, praised her predecessor for “her commitment and passion to issues of equal opportunity, respect for individuals and trying to make Duke a better place for everybody.”

In retirement, Adams continues her workplace efforts, serving as an organizational consultant addressing workplace bullying and other issues.

“I was notified that I was the recipient this year of this (lifetime achievement) award, and I was very surprised and grateful,” Adams said. “I was just overwhelmed by the idea that I would be a first.”

The Cook Society was founded in 1997 to honor the legacy of the pioneering Duke faculty member and trustee Samuel DuBois Cook. Hired by the political science department in 1966, Cook was Duke’s first Black faculty member. He later became president of Dillard University.

The Cook Society Award recipients follow Cook’s example by dedicating themselves to social justice, equality and strengthening the campus community.

Cook’s contributions to Duke’s history will be highlighted during the university’s Centennial celebration. “As the first Black faculty member, Dr. Cook’s legacy holds deep meaning to the Duke and Durham community.  As a scholar, teacher and activist, Dr. Cook’s influence was critical to the transformation of this institution,” Hewitt said. 

“In this moment of political polarization, global conflict and challenges to institutions of higher education, we look to icons like Dr. Cook for inspiration and hope as we continue the important work of living out our Duke values of respect, trust, inclusion, discovery and excellence.”

Cook died in 2017, but his wife and daughter were on hand for the Cook Society’s special Centennial celebration.

In addition to Adams, Cook Society Awards were presented to the following:

* Isaiah Hamilton, president of the Duke Student Government, received the Cook Undergraduate Student Award. A native of Elizabeth City, Hamilton was raised by his mother and sister, both dedicated nurses turned dog breeders who inspired his interest in health and the human body. Hamilton is a senior pursuing a degree in biology with a minor in global health, and he is interested in the intersection between life sciences and community development. In his role as the DSG president and his previous work as president of the Black Student Alliance, Hamilton has shown a strong commitment to enhancing the campus experience for all.

* Catherine Denning-Jannace, a chemistry postdoctoral fellow, won the Graduate Student Award. With a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky, Denning-Jannace is studying the role of

Metal homeostasis in fungal pathogenesis and using this knowledge to develop more effective antifungal drug treatments. Named Duke’s Outstanding Postdoc in 2022, she is a member of the Department of Chemistry’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She and her partner are parents of 4-year-old twin boys and a 5-month-old baby girl.

* Jasmine Hughes, a Duke Pre-College Instructor, received the society’s Staff Award. As a master’s student in bioethics, Hughes was vice president of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association and a member of the President’s Council on Black Affairs and the Racial Equity Advisory Council (REAC). She continues her work with REAC as a staff member. She is passionate about teaching the next generation, and as a Pre-College instructor, she works with local students, providing them with academic experiences in a university setting to encourage them to think about seeking a college education.

* Rev. Dr. Luke Powery, dean of Duke Chapel and professor of homiletics and African and African American studies, received the Raymond Gavins Distinguished Faculty Award.  A national leader in the study of homiletics, Powery has ensured that the chapel continues to be a centerpiece of the community both at Duke and in Durham. His teaching and research explore the connections between preaching, music and culture, particularly the expression of the African diaspora. The award is named after the beloved late Duke history professor, who was known for his mentorship and support of colleagues and young scholars.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, a Duke Divinity School alumnus who is a writer, preacher and community activist, received the Distinguished Service Award. In 2003, he and his wife founded the Rutba House, a hospitality house in Durham which provides housing and assistance to individuals in need. He described the work at Rutba in his book “Strangers at My Door: An Experiment in Radical Hospitality.” Wilson-Hartgrove also founded the School for Conversion, a popular community education center in Durham. He currently serves as assistant director for partnerships and fellowships at Yale University’s Center for Public Theology and Public Policy.

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