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Cole Named UNCF President-In-Residence, Co-Chair of $1B Capital Campaign

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) has announced Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole as president-in-residence, who will serve as co-chairperson of the organization’s capital campaign.

The distinguished scholar, anthropologist, and academic pacesetter will spearhead efforts to secure vital resources that will empower UNCF member colleges and universities to continue providing scholarships, support services, and cutting-edge programs.

Dr. Johnnetta Betsch ColeDr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole“I very much look forward to joining my distinguished colleagues who currently serve as a president-in-residence,” said Cole. “It is also a profound honor and a joy to serve as a co-chairperson for the UNCF capital campaign.

“As a youngster, I learned of the value and power of UNCF member institutions from the stories told by and about my own family members who graduated from those colleges and universities,” she continued. “And then, I learned firsthand about these revered and important educational institutions when I was a student at a UNCF member university, and when I had the extraordinary privilege of serving as the president of the only two historically Black colleges for women in our nation, both of which are in the UNCF family. I continue to say what I have said and believed for many years: If UNCF member institutions did not exist, we would have to invent them. That is their importance to our nation and to our world.”

Cole was the first Black woman to serve as president of Spelman College, which was founded specifically for the education of women of African descent. She also served as president of Bennett College. She helped to launch "The Spelman Campaign: Initiatives for the 90s" at Spelman, which raised $113.8 million for the college’s endowment, including $37 million in 1992 from the DeWitt Wallace/Readers Digest Fund. Officials said the campaign brought Spelman's endowment to $141 million. At Bennett, Cole led a successful $50 million capital campaign.

“I am elated to welcome my dear friend, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, fellow champion for equal justice in higher education, pioneering educator, and extraordinary leader to join forces with UNCF to help us keep the momentum going with our bold, ambitious $1 billion capital campaign,” said UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax.

“With her immense expertise and passion for education, Dr. Cole will play a pivotal role in advancing the goals of our capital campaign and UNCF's mission of ensuring equal access to higher education for underrepresented students of color,” continued Lomax. “Dr. Cole will serve as an ambassador for the campaign and advocate with UNCF-member presidents and her own network to help identify new supporters. She is no stranger to conducting successful capital campaigns.”

Cole is widely recognized for her contributions to academia and advocacy for social justice. In 2023, President Biden presented Cole with the National Humanities Medal for her pioneering work about the “on-going contributions to Afro-Latin, Caribbean and African communities to advance American understanding of Black culture and the necessity and power of racial inclusion in our nation.”

“I am equally thrilled to echo Dr. Lomax’s sentiments about Dr. Cole coming on board as co-chairperson of our capital campaign,” said UNCF Board of Directors Chair Milton H. Jones, Jr. “She is a national treasure and tremendous asset as a strong advocate for the success of UNCF, HBCUs and their students. I look forward to working with her closely to help us continue making significant progress with the capital campaign.”

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