The president of Bennett College announced this week that she would retire in June of 2007, noting only that she had achieved most of her goals since arriving at the small, historically Black women’s college in 2002. Under Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole’s leadership, the college has raised approximately $30 million through the “Revitalizing Bennett Campaign.” The college could move closer to its $50 million campaign goal this fall when Oprah Winfrey hosts a benefit gala at Bennett.
Cole is credited with steering the college off probation and back on track financially. When she arrived, Bennett was operating with a $3 million deficit. During Cole’s tenure, the endowment has grown from $7 million to $10 million. Three historic buildings were renovated, and substantial improvements have been made in numerous other buildings. Cole actually resigned last year, complaining that some faculty were impeding her leadership efforts (see Black Issues In Higher Education, May 19, 2005). Shortly afterward, she changed her mind.
The profile of the college, which has approximately 550 students, was elevated last year when former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Robert Dole headlined a fundraiser on the campus. Although she says she intends to step down from the presidency next year, Cole does not plan on leaving the college. Instead, she will serve as chair of the board of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute.
— By Eleanor Lee Yates
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