Johnnetta Betsch Cole

Former Spelman College President

Johnnetta Betsch Cole is a noted anthropologist, educator, author, speaker, and consultant on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in workplaces. She is also a Charles F. Kettering Foundation senior fellow. She has taught anthropology, women’s studies, and African American studies at several colleges and universities. Cole has served as the president of both Spelman College and Bennett College, the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, and a senior consulting fellow at the Mellon Foundation. Cole was the first African American to chair the board of United Way of America. She served as the president and chair of the board of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. Cole has served on numerous corporate boards and was the first woman appointed to the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises and the first Black woman appointed to Merck’s board of directors. She has authored, coauthored, and edited numerous books and has received many awards and 70 honorary degrees. In 2023, President Joe Biden presented Cole with a National Humanities Medal for her pioneering contributions to our nation’s cultural life. Throughout her career, Cole has addressed racism, sexism, and all other systems of inequality. She is a celebrated leader and mentor to many people of different identities and cultures.

The Charles F. Kettering Foundation has established an elite group of senior fellows to work with the foundation to advance our pro-inclusive democracy mission. Learn more about all of our Kettering fellows.