Johnnetta Betsch Cole
Johnnetta Betsch Cole is a senior consulting fellow at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In March 2017, Ms. Cole retired as the Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, a position she held for eight years. During her tenure, she helped raise the museum's profile as the nation's premier museum focusing on the visual arts of Africa through groundbreaking exhibitions and education programs. She also established the first chief diversity officer position at a Smithsonian museum. Ms. Cole is president emerita of Spelman College and Bennett College. She is also professor emerita of Emory University from which she retired as Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Women's Studies, and African American Studies.
In recognition of Ms. Cole's many achievements, she has received 68 honorary degrees and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the TransAfrica Forum Global Public Service Award, the Barnard Medal, the Radcliffe Medal, the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for Community Service from United Way of America, The Joseph Prize for Human Rights presented by the Anti-Defamation League, The Uncommon Height Award from the National Council of Negro Women, The John W. Gardner Leadership Award from The Independent Sector, and the Lenore and George W. Romney Citizen Volunteer Award from the Points of Light Foundation.
An anthropologist by training, Ms. Cole holds a doctorate from Northwestern University. She has conducted research in Africa, the Caribbean and the United States, and has authored and edited several books and scores of scholarly articles. She is a fellow of the American Anthropological Association and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. From 2015 to 2016 she was the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors. She currently co-chairs the American Alliance of Museum's Working Group on Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion and is a member of the Scholarly Advisory Board for the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. She is a Principal Consultant at the firm Cook Ross, Inc.