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American Woman Award
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The 1990 American Woman Award
Johnetta B. Cole


Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole is President Emerita of Spelman College and Professor Emerita of Emory University from which she recently retired as Presidential Distinguished Professor of anthropology, women's studies, and African American studies. Dr. Cole's distinguished career as a college and university teacher and administrator spans 37 years.

Dr. Cole began her college studies at Fisk University and completed her undergraduate degree at Oberlin College. She earned a master's degree and Ph.D. in anthropology from Northwestern University before embarking on a career in teaching and research in the areas of cultural anthropology, African American studies and women's studies. Johnnetta has taught at the University of California, she has been a director of black studies at Washington State University and finally, taught in the anthropology department at the University of Massachusetts.

Dr. Cole made history in 1987 by becoming the first African American woman to serve as president of Spelman College. At her inauguration, Drs. Bill and Camille Cosby made a $20 million donation to the college-at that time the largest single gift from individuals to any historically Black college and university. Under Dr. Cole's leadership, Spelman received a coveted number one rating by U.S. News and World Report in its 1992 "Best College Buys" issue. That same year, Dr. Cole was named to President-elect Clinton's transition team as cluster coordinator for education, labor, and the arts and humanities.
After 10 years at Spelman, Dr. Cole returned to teaching at Emory University. In 1998, she was appointed by President Clinton to the 11-member Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History. In 1999, she was appointed to Governor Roy Barnes's Education Reform Study Commission.

Dr. Cole is an active participant in numerous community and civic organizations including the Carter Center, the TransAfrica Forum and, the United Way of Metro Atlanta. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the Links, Inc., and the National Council of Negro Women. She also serves on the board of directors of Coca-Cola Enterprises and Merck and Co., Inc. She is a trustee of Gallaudet University and Rockefeller Foundation.

In addition to 47 honorary degrees, Dr. Cole has received numerous awards including the TransAfrica Forum Global Public Service Award, the Dorothy I. Height Dreammaker Award, the Radcliffe Medal and the 1999 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal. Most recently, she received the Alexis deTocqueville Award for community service from United Way of America.

Since her retirement from university teaching and administration, Dr. Cole continues writing, speaking, consulting, and engaging in community service. During her first marriage to economist Robert Cole, she had three sons; currently she is married to Arthur Robinson III.