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Johnnetta Betsch was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where her family had long been established a leaders of the Black community. At age 15, Johnnetta Betsch entered Fisk University, through the school’s early admissions program. She completed her undergraduate degree at Oberlin College and went on to earn a Master’s and Ph.D. in anthropology from Northwestern University.
Dr. Cole has had a long and distinguished career as an educator and humanitarian. After 20 years of service as a professor at three institutions of higher learning, Cole made history in 1987 by becoming the first African-American woman to serve as president of Spelman College in Atlanta. At her inauguration, as seventh President of Spelman College, Bill Cosby and his wife Camille made a gift of $20 million to the College, the largest single gift from individuals to any historically Black college or university. Dr. Cole then became the 14th president of Bennett College, the only other historically black college for women, in 2002. During her tenure, she raised an unprecedented $50 million for the College.
A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Anthropological Association, Cole has consistently addressed issues of racial and gender discrimination. Besides her work in higher education, Cole serves as a member of the board of directors for a number of organizations, including the Carter Center and the National Visionary Leadership Project. In addition to 50 honorary degrees, Cole has received numerous awards, including the TransAfrica Forum Global Public Service Award, the Dorothy I. Height Dreammaker Award and the Radcliffe Medal.
Dr. Cole broke yet another barrier in May 2004 by becoming the first African-American to serve as chair of the board of United Way of America. In addition to her academic duties, Dr. Cole has served on the board of Directors of Home Depot, Merck & Co., Inc., NationsBank South and was the first woman ever elected to the Board of Coca-Cola Enterprises.
Yes We Must: Achieve Diversity through Leadership-Keynote
as author at MIT World Series: 35th Annual Breakfast (2009),
together with: Susan Hockfield,