At the invitation of President Bill Chace, Johnnetta Cole, president of Spelman College, will join the Emory faculty in 1998. Cole plans to retire from Spelman in June 1997 and will take a year's sabbatical before coming to Emory.
Cole explained her decision to leave Spelman at a convocation there on Sept. 5, saying simply, "There has been no pressure for me to leave Spelman. It is not the case that I must go; it is the right time for me to go." Later that day at a press briefing, Cole talked about how hard it is to be a college president and said that she felt 10 years as president of Spelman "is a good race to have run."
Cole said that in her faculty role at Emory she plans to continue to address a question that has always been central in her professional life: how can people of color and women everywhere become full participants in the life of their particular society? "I'm going to ask the tough questions," said Cole, "but I trust Bill Chace and I have had a wonderful experience of being welcomed by my colleagues at Emory." Cole added that since her arrival at Spelman in 1987, she had developed relationships with faculty at Emory who participated in her professional interests. "We had Johnnetta Cole in for a departmental gathering when she received her honorary doctorate from Emory last spring," said Bradd Shore, professor and chair of the anthropology department. "While no formal relationship yet exists with our department, we're very interested in her continued work in looking at how to make anthropology useful in public policy and for people who are beyond academia."
"I am delighted at the prospect of Johnnetta Cole as a colleague," said Peggy Barlett, professor of anthropology. "She shares a commitment to feminist approaches in anthropology and to public scholarship, both of which are concerns of mine," said Barlett.
"Johnnetta Cole will be a wonderful addition to Emory's excellent faculty strengths," said Chace. "As a scholar and president whose intellectual interests span a range of disciplines, President Cole's appointment will enhance Emory University's enlarging commitment to interdisciplinary studies and to public scholarship."
Cole said she will be associated with the anthropology, women's studies, and African and African American studies departments, although no details of her appointment have been worked out. She characterized her faculty appointment at Emory as a chance to continue to build strong ties among all higher education institutions in Atlanta and to build bridges across institutional differences. "I like to think of myself as a bridge builder and I see that work continuing." Cole also said she took the Spelman presidency as a teaching job and sees herself fundamentally as a teacher.
Cole said she has three books in her head that she hopes to write during her year's sabbatical. "I hope to co-write with Beverly Guy-Sheftall a book on gender roles and the African American community. I'd also like to do biographies on the two founders of Spelman. Another book I'm thinking about is on friendships, a book that would allow me to enter into a discourse about divisions among us and look at ways in which black and white folk do cross the line of friendships in this country."
Cole said she did not take a teaching post at Spelman so that a new president could have the space to lead the institution.