Monday December 18, 2006

Honoring MLK Jr.

Johnnetta B. Cole, educator and humanitarian, will headline two Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. events Jan. 15-16.

Johnnetta Betsch Cole, a human rights champion and the only person to ever preside over two historically black colleges for women, will headline two community events honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy Jan. 15-16.

Cole will address "How Must We Honor the Life and Work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?" at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 15, at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Holiday Celebration and Presidential Banquet at the Mandalay Banquet Center, 2700 E. River Rd. Her appearance is a collaboration between the Dayton Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the University of Dayton's Diversity Lecture Series. Tickets are $50. Call 937-268-0051 for more information.

She also will headline UD's annual Martin Luther King Jr. prayer breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, in the Kennedy Union Ballroom on campus. No tickets are available to the general public.

"Johnnetta Cole is a tireless leader, humanitarian and scholar who has influenced the lives of countless people, particularly African American women. She's a dynamic and extraordinary speaker who will energize the Dayton community around our need to build a more diverse, inclusive community that values all people," said Daniel J. Curran, honorary co-chair of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday Celebration in Dayton and president of the University of Dayton.

Cole's career as a college and university professor and administrator spans more than three decades. She made history in 1987 by becoming the first African American woman to serve as president of Spelman College. She also was the first person of color to chair the Board of United Way of America, a position she held from 2004 to 2006.

Currently, she's president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C., where she has revitalized the liberal arts school by erasing a deficit, restoring accreditation and boosting the endowment. When she steps down in 2007, she will chair the board of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute at Bennett College named in her honor.

Cole has a long and distinguished career as an educator and humanitarian. Her work as a college professor and president, published works, speeches and community service consistently address issues of racial, gender and all other forms of discrimination. She's the co-author of Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women's Equality in African American Communities.

In addition to 51 honorary degrees, Cole has received numerous awards including the TransAfrica Forum Global Public Service Award, the Radcliffe Medal, the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the 2001 Alexis deTocqueville Award for Community Service from United Way of America, the Award for Education presented at the 90th Anniversary Celebrations of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, The Joseph Prize for Human Rights presented by the Anti-Defamation League and the Uncommon Height Award from the National Council of Negro Women.

She began her college studies at the age of 15 at Fisk University and completed her undergraduate degree at Oberlin College. She earned a master's degree and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Northwestern University. She's professor emerita of Emory University, where she retired as Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Women's Studies and African American Studies.

The University of Dayton's Diversity Lecture Series -- part of a larger strategic plan to foster inclusion and diversity on campus and prepare students, faculty, staff and the Dayton community for success in a global society -- is co-sponsored by the offices of the president and provost with support from corporate partners, including The National Conference for Community and Justice, Dayton Daily News, WDTN-TV, WDAO-1210 AM and Markey's Audio Visual.

Contact Lynnette Heard, executive director of the president's office, at 937-229-4122 or Rosemary O'Boyle, assistant dean of students, at 937-229-2229.