Diversity Woman Magazine

WIN 2017

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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36 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N W i n t e r 2 0 1 7 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m Imparting that message of "dream it, be it" is particularly im- portant for young women at historically black colleges, Cole says. "I dream of the day when special-mission schools—Brigham Young, Brandeis, Notre Dame, or Howard or Spelman—are no longer necessary," Cole says. "But they are. Today, when there are still so many deep and hurtful expressions of racism, his- torically black colleges and universities provide an environment in which students do not have to spend inordinate amounts of their time pushing back against racism. "Furthermore, we live in a country, in a world, where gender inequality is still so prominent. For some students, it is an ex- traordinarily important experience to go to a place like Spel- man, or Bennett, or Wellesley, or Smith, or Mount Holyoke, and never have someone look at them and say, 'Honey, are you sure you can do physics?' Until we move beyond where we are today, in terms of deeply seeded notions of inequality and practices of these systems of inequality, these special-mission institutions are deeply important." Her role as president at the only two historically black colleges for women in the United States sends a powerful message, says Bennett College Interim President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins. "Dr. Cole has inspired millions of African American girls and demonstrated that not only can they succeed but that they too could become college presidents or serve in powerful leadership roles." "Mama exhorted her children at ev- ery opportunity to 'jump at the sun.' We may not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground." — Zora Neale Hurston I n 2007 Cole retired yet again. She moved back to Atlanta and resumed teaching at Emory University. She was in her 70s, but as is her wont, she was restless and looking for a new challenge. She thought perhaps she would take a volunteer docent training course at the High Museum of Art. Or perhaps, even more ambi- tiously, go back to school and earn a PhD in art history. en, one day, she got a phone call that yet again put re- tirement on hold ("I have failed at retirement three times," she says). e caller was Richard Kurin, acting provost at the Smithsonian. He asked if she might have any recommenda- tions for the open directorship position at the National Mu- seum of African Art. Cole gave him some names. en she added, jokingly, "If you move the museum to Atlanta, I'll do it." D r. Johnnetta B. Cole loves proverbs and quotes. She has a store of them— some her own, some the words of others— for the appropriate occasion. And most of them involve, in some form or another, inclusion. Here are few of her noteworthy proverbs. "It always seems impossible until it is done." — Nelson Mandela "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." — African proverb "If you want change, you've got to educate, you've got to legislate, and when necessary, you've got to advocate." — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough." — Ellen Johnson Sirleaf While it is true that without a vision the people perish, it is doubly true that without action the people and their vision perish as well." —Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole WORDS TO FOLLOW

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