Photo credit: Diversity, INC
The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) recently selected accomplished educator and champion of women’s issues, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, as the historic organization’s borad chair and seventh president and board chair. The announcement was made during the closing session of their 58th Biennial National Convention in Washington, D.C.
During her acceptance speech, Dr. Cole shared, “My heart is overflowing with gratitude for this honor to serve as the seventh president of this organization that has been a voice of and for Black women since it was founded in 1935 by the amazing and grace-filled Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and lead so brilliantly and soulfully for more than 50 years by the unconquerable Dr. Dorothy Height.”
As fate would have it, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was a long-time friend of Dr. Cole’s grandfather. Because of that relationship, Dr. Bethune often mentored young Dr. Cole and her sister and shared her passion around the importance of education and being of service to others. Dr. Bethune’s counsel made a lasting impression on the girls and also served as the inspiration behind Dr. Cole’s ultimate career path.
Dr. Cole is often most notably remembered for her service as the president of two historically Black colleges for women, Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She was the first African American woman president of Spelman and also served as the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art for some years. She became the first African American to serve on the board of United Way of America and also served on multiple other corporate industry boards, including Home Depot and Coca Cola Enterprises. She is an author and anthropologist and also holds many professional affiliations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.
“As a lifetime member of NCNW, Johnnetta is well suited to steward the legacies and promises of Dr. Bethune and Dr. Height,” said Ingrid Saunders Jones, immediate past chair of the NCNW. “With more than 650 delegates representing more than 200 sections and affiliates from across the country coming together in unity to achieve the smooth transition of leadership, including the acceptance and installation of a slate of 22 officers by affirmation, NCNW is in good hands.”