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Renowned American Anthropologist Johnnetta B. Cole to Kick Off Engineering Lecture Series

By Keith Pierce

American anthropologist and former director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Johnnetta B. Cole, Ph.D., will deliver a lecture at Old Dominion University on Nov. 16. The first in a series of lectures hosted by Stephanie Adams, dean of the Batten College of Engineering and Technology, Cole will speak on the STEM Professional's Role in Diversity and Inclusion. Co-sponsored by the Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity, the lecture will take place at 7 p.m. in Batten Arts & Letters Rm. 1012.

"I want to create an opportunity in the College of Engineering and Technology to introduce our community, and the larger campus, to smart, engaging and influential people to encourage thought-provoking conversations and ideas," said Adams.

An author and recipient of 70 honorary degrees, Cole is a pioneer of African-American and black women's studies. She made history as the first African-American female president of Spelman College, the oldest historically black women's college in the country.

Under her leadership, Spelman was named the number one liberal arts college of the South and raised $113.8 million for its capital campaign - the largest sum ever raised by an historically black college or university. She repeated a similar fundraising feat at Bennett College for Women, where she served as president from 2002 to 2007.

"In 2005, I had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Cole in her role as president of Bennett College for Women. I count it an honor to have been able to do so," said Adams. "Dr. C, as I affectionately call her, has gone from being an idol, to a mentor, a sounding board and a friend. I am thrilled she accepted my invitation to be the Batten College of Engineering and Technology's inaugural dean's lecture series speaker."

Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1936, amid widespread racism of the segregated South, Cole grew up in a family of high achievers who were considered pillars of the black community. Her maternal great-grandfather was Florida's first black millionaire, having cofounded the state's first insurance firm in 1901. Cole entered Fisk University at age 15, before transferring to Oberlin where she graduated with a B.A. in anthropology. She went on to receive a masters and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Northwestern University.

Among other distinctions, Cole was the first woman elected to the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises, served as the chair of the Board of the United Way and was appointed to President Clinton's transition team for Education, Labor, the Arts and Humanities in 1992. In 2009, she was named director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American Art.

For more information on the event, email BCETDean@odu.edu or call (757) 683-4244.

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