A well-known academic troubleshooter and college administrator
is coming out of retirement to become president of Bennett College, a
historically African-American women's school in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Johnnetta B. Cole
Johnnetta B. Cole, a retired anthropology professor
and former president of Spelman College in Atlanta, was named 14th president
of United Methodist-related Bennett on April 27. She is well known in
academic circles for leading Spelman to financial solvency and academic
Spelman and Bennett are the nation's only colleges that focus primarily on African-American women. Bennett is one of 11 historically black colleges related to the United Methodist Church.
Cole, 65, takes the reins July 1 from Charles Fuget, who had been serving as interim president following the resignation of Althia Collins in December. Collins had served for six months.
The board of trustees named Cole, "an ideal choice to help Bennett face our current challenges and fulfill our potential as a leading women's college," said Marian B. Tasco, chairwoman of the board of trustees.
has been plagued with leadership controversy, falling enrollment and a
$2 million budget deficit.
"Only the challenge to help Bennett College soar to the heights of its possibility could have brought me out of retirement," Cole told students, faculty and alumni during a welcoming ceremony. She expressed admiration for the college. It "must be treasured," she said, "and we all have the responsibility to nurture, invest in and protect her." A fund-raising campaign would be undertaken to help restore the institution, she said.
The Rev. Joreatha Capers, administrator of the fund that serves the 11 historically black United Methodist colleges, praised Cole's selection. "She will bring a lot of talent and wealth of experience to this position, and the school will certainly benefit from all of the gifts that she brings," Capers said.
"I am deeply pleased and thankful to learn that Dr. Cole has graciously accepted leadership of Bennett College. It is just for such a time as this that her commitment, competence and caring are needed to the end that Bennett's distinct mission as a United Methodist-related college will be achieved," said the Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
In 1987, Cole became the first African-American woman to serve as president of Spelman College and was known as "America's Sister President." She took the helm at a time when Spelman was undergoing hardship and led a fund-raising effort that raised $114 million, exceeding a goal of $81 million. Under her leadership, the school was rated by U.S. News and World Report magazine as the best liberal arts college in the South.
Cole left Spelman for Emory University in 1998 to teach women's and African American studies. She retired from Emory in 2001 but remains president emeritus of Spelman and professor emeritus of Emory.
For more information click on Bennett College.