Samuel DuBois Cook Memorial
Written by Dillard University Office of Communications and Marketing
For 22 years, Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook filled the Oaks with love. He died on May 29 at the age of 88. On Friday, former students, employees and colleagues returned to Dillard University’s Lawless Memorial Chapel and filled it with memories of that love.
“This is a commencement,” said Rev. Earnest Salsberry.
He said a commencement is often thought of as a graduation, a transition. And for
Cook, it was a continuation of the next phase of his life. He urged the worshipers
not to be sad, but to celebrate. “Today was his commencement from earth to glory,
from heartache to peace, commencing from sickness to eternal rest.”
The alumni choir was on hand to perform several selections, including negro spirituals, a genre of music that Cook loved. Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, Dillard’s President, talked about attending Cook’s funeral in Atlanta and the plethora of notable figures who gave reflections on the noted scholar and consummate family man. Kimbrough said he has long been impressed with Cook’s brilliance.
“He’s a bad dude,” Kimbrough said he told students recently. “Just to recognize the
legacy that has been here in the space at Dillard.”
“They gave a picture of Dr. Cook that whole world should’ve heard,” Francis said.
Cook, Francis said, had a clear vision of what he wanted to do. Cook knew he wanted to be a great teacher so future generation could be great teachers.
“He had the passion and gifts to fulfill God’s gift early,” Francis said.
The program also had expressions and reflections from faculty and staff as well as friends and community.
Terri Mercadel-Luster, ‘96, said she remembers Cook from the time she was a little girl and her mother worked at Dillard. She became friends with Cook's children, and one day was in the president's house when she fell off a bunk bed suffering a concussion.
She had long been terrified of Cook, a towering man. And after falling out of bed, she knew trouble was imminent. Mercadel-Luster recalled only being able to hear his booming voice: “What happened?”
Then, Cook consoled her. She never feared him again. And years later, as she was arriving at Dillard as a freshman, she sought out Cook, to remind him of her friendship with his children.
"And he said to me, 'I remember you. They don't have bunk beds in your dorm room, do they?' " Mercadel-Luster recalled. "And that was Dr. Cook. From that day forward, he included me in everything he could at the University."
Jonathan Billingsley said he arrived on campus in 1978 from Marion, Alabama, on a basketball scholarship.
"I knew nothing and no one," he said. "But then I met Dr. Cook. He made me feel like I knew everything and everyone."
"He made sure we were just as important as anyone else on campus," Billingsley said. "Only Dr. Cook can be Dr. Cook. No one else can be Dr. Cook."
The Honorable Patrick O. Jefferson, ‘90, Louisiana House of Representatives for the 11th district, said that life on earth is only but a minute and Cook was a walking example of integrity, who used his minute well. He asked the attendees: “Can’t you hear him bellowing, ‘Not failure is a sin, but low aim is.,” Jefferson reflected and added that Cook’s presence will resonate for generations to come.
Elsie Coleman, ‘77, the daughter of a homemaker recalled coming to Dillard as a poor student, but she had the talent to sew. She said when Cook learned about her situation and her skill, his wife Sylvia F. Cook started employing her to make long skirts. Coleman said she was paid handsomely for one of the easier pieces of clothing to make. She talked about giving things to people and expecting nothing in return. She said: “If you’re going to memorialize someone, then do it from the life you live.”