MARQUETTE, Mich.— Johnnetta Cole, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, will be the keynote speaker at Northern Michigan University’s mid-year commencement on Saturday, Dec. 17. She will also receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Graduating senior Lauren Fusilier of Mason, Mich., was selected as the student speaker.
Cole was appointed to her current position in 2009, but has worked with a number of Smithsonian programs since the mid-1980s. She also serves on the scholarly advisory board for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will be constructed on the National Mall by 2015.
As a longtime educator and humanitarian, Cole’s published works, speeches and community service consistently address issues of inequality. She is president emeritusof two historically black colleges for women in the United States: Bennett College for Women and Spelman College. She is also professor emeritusof Emory University,from which she retired as presidential distinguished professorof anthropology, women’s studies and African American studies.
Cole earned a master’s degree and a doctoratein anthropology from Northwestern University. From 2004 to 2006, she was chair of the board of United Way of America. She has also served on the corporate boards of Home Depot, Merck and Nation’s Bank South. She was the first woman to serve on the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises.Cole currently chairs the board of the National Visionary Leadership Project, is a board member of TransAfrica Forumand The Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute, and serves on the Advisory Committee of America’s Promise.
Fusilier will graduate with a degree in elementary and special education with an emotional impairment emphasis. Her academic minor is educational psychology. A highlight of her NMU experience was participating in the WiMAX demonstration for President Obama during his February 2011 visit to campus and explaining how NMU’s teacher education program is making use of the technology. Fusilier has also been involved in NMU Circle K, the NMU chapter of the Invisible Children movement, intramurals and various education events.
NMU’s commencement ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. It will be broadcast live on WNMU-TV and streamed free online through B2 Network. A link to the latter will be available at www.nmu.edu/commencement.
Prepared by Kristi Evans.