PULLMAN — Johnnetta Cole, whose academic career took her from Washington State University to the presidencies of Spelman College and Bennett College, will receive an honorary doctoral degree from WSU during winter commencement ceremonies.
The Board of Regents approved the honor at its regularly scheduled meeting Friday in Pullman.
“Having begun her academic career at Washington State University, she became an inspiring leader whose commitment to advancing social justice is extraordinary,” said WSU President Elson S. Floyd.
“Furthermore, Johnnetta Cole’s advocacy of civil and human rights and against discrimination of all kinds is second to none.”
Cole was a member of the WSU anthropology faculty from 1964-1970. In 1970, she was named WSU’s outstanding faculty member. She was the first director of the university’s Black Studies Program which was later consolidated with other programs into what is now the WSU Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies.
Cole went on to serve as the first African-American female president of Spelman College from 1987-97 and as president of Bennett College from 2002-2007. She currently chairs the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute at Bennett.
Cole will provide the WSU Pullman commencement address at its December ceremony.
The board also approved two construction projects for the central area of the Pullman campus. One would extend Terrell Mall by turning Wilson Road from Troy Lane into a pedestrian mall. That stretch of Wilson Road is currently closed to general traffic because of ongoing construction at Martin Stadium and the Compton Union Building. Construction on the $1.2 million pedestrian mall is scheduled to start next spring and be completed next fall.
Another $12-million project involves continued infrastructure improvements on Library Road, which runs perpendicular to the west end of Terrell Mall.
Construction is slated to begin in summer 2008 and be completed in fall 2009.
The regents also gave the go-ahead for design and construction of an $11.5 million chilled water system and electrical distribution system for the Pullman campus. Completion of those projects is scheduled for spring 2009.