Dr. Johnetta Cole (Image source: Twitter / @SpelmanCollege)

It isn’t often that we do birthday shout-outs, but we would be remiss not to acknowledge one of Spelman College‘s most prolific and accomplished presidents in its illustrious history — Dr. Johnnetta Cole.

Dr. Cole took the office of the presidency at Spelman in 1987, becoming the first woman to lead the historic HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), founded for women of African descent.

A native of Florida, Dr. Cole was born on this day, Oct. 19, 1936, and was admitted to Fisk University at the tender age of 15. She went on to graduate from Oberlin College in 1957, before earning master’s and doctorate degrees from Northwestern University in 1959 and 1967 respectively.

After her successful ten-year term at Spelman College, Dr. Cole moved on to Bennett College in 2002, where she served as president until 2007. She served as chair of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute in Atlanta and was named director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in 2009 — a position she holds to the day.

Sporting a resume that boasts over 50 honorary degrees and tons more accolades, Dr. Cole has served on boards including Home Depot, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Merck and United Way of America.

Dr. Cole is married to James D. Staton Jr. and has three sons, one stepson, and three grandchildren.

Rolling out salutes Dr. Cole for being a true beacon of light and hope for countless African American women who have carried on the message and mission she sought to establish as a true pioneer.

Happy birthday Dr. Johnnetta, with sincere appreciation and love from your rolling out family.


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