Johnnetta Betsch Cole, a national leader in education, anthropology and activism, and former director of the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian, will be the featured speaker at the UW’s 142nd commencement on June 10. At the event, the Board of Regents will confer upon her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Cole, former president of Spelman and Bennett colleges, two historically black women’s colleges, actually has her academic roots here in Washington. As a graduate student and new faculty member at WSU in the 1960s, she helped found the Black Studies Program, and then went on to direct it. After leaving Washington, Cole worked her way through teaching and leadership positions, eventually becoming the first African American woman to head Spelman College in Atlanta.
At the same ceremony, Tacoma businessman and civic leader William W. Philip, ’47, will receive his own honorary doctorate. Credited as a founding father of UW Tacoma, Philip advocated for the creation of the campus.