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The university money-raising machine

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

The only person who’s ever headed both of the nation’s historically black colleges for women — Spelman College in Atlanta and Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. — Johnnetta Cole used her ability to attract supporters to revitalize both schools.

  • At her inauguration as Spelman’s first black female president, Cole already was so influential that actor Bill Cosby gave the college $20 million.

  • In one decade, Cole raised almost $114 million, growing Spelman’s endowment to more than $130 million. That made it the largest of any black college at the time and placed it in the top ranks of private colleges.

  • Cole also improved the school’s reputation. U.S. News ranked it first among liberal arts colleges in the South, and Money deemed it a Top 10 “best college buy.”

  • Arriving at Bennett in 2002, Cole erased a budget deficit by raising $15 million in 15 months. She also boosted enrollment and saved the school’s accreditation.

  • To revitalize the college, she enlisted former Sen. Robert Dole and poet Maya Angelou as co-chairs of a campaign to raise $50 million.

    So far, the drive is more than halfway to its goal.

  • Cole also approached the college’s alumnae and staff. For four straight years, the alumnae alone have given $1 million.
Here are two ways Cole attracts resources:
  1. She’s on a mission. She’s utterly committed to educating African-American women.

  2. She believes in service. “Doing for others is the rent we pay for living on this earth,” she says.
She asks for help. In the words of one alumna: “Dr. Cole is a communicator. She invites you in and just puts it out there, what’s happening and is needed to fix things. That’s how great leaders lead: They embrace people, and then empower them.”

-- Adapted from “Saving Grace,” Lori Wiggins, The Crisis.

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