Dr. Julianne Malveaux

(FinalCall.com) – After a lengthy and selective search process, the Bennett College for Women Board of Trustees announced at a press conference held Mar. 26 the appointment of Dr. Julianne Malveaux as the 15th President of Bennett College.

“We are delighted to have as our next president, a woman who is talented and competent with the vision and creativity to move Bennett to the next level,” said Yvonne Johnson, chair of the Bennett College Board of Trustees.

As she walked across the stage when her name was announced, the audience erupted with cheers and a standing ovation for the noted economist, author and commentator.


Dr. Malveaux is succeeding the incomparable Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, who presided over the school for the past five years after a remarkable career as the president of Spelman College for Women.

“The appointment of Dr. Julianne Malveaux as the 15th president of Bennett College for Women says to the world that this very special institution will indeed continue to move from good, to great, to her rightful place as one of our nation’s outstanding small liberal arts colleges,” Dr. Cole said.

“With Dr. Malveaux as Bennett’s Sister President, I am confident that the revitalization of the college that I was privileged to lead for five years will not only continue, but accelerate.”

Poet laureate Dr. Maya Angelou, a member of the board of trustees said, “As we reel inevitably with the departure of our beloved Dr. Johnnetta Cole, we are made steady with the arrival of Dr. Julianne Malveaux.”

“Welcome Dr. Malveaux! We will all be uplifted, informed, and increased by your presence at Bennett College for Women. We send Dr. Cole to her wonderful future and we embrace you and thank you for coming to us just as we need you,” Ms. Angelou stated.

Who Is Dr. Julianne Malveaux?

Recognized for her provocative, progressive and insightful observations and described by Dr. Cornel West as “the most iconoclastic, public intellectual in the country,” Dr. Malveaux’s contributions to the public dialogue on issues such as race, culture, gender, and their economic impacts, are helping to shape public opinion in 21st century America.

“She is brilliant,” explained Cora Masters Barry, long-time friend of Dr. Malveaux and former first lady of Washington, D.C. to The Final Call. “She is the second Black woman to get a PhD in Economics from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). That’s just incredible.”

“Dr. Malveaux is passionate for education and the empowerment of women. She’s always mentoring young women. She’s well known for her public persona. She will think out of the box as president and do some things that have never been done at the college,” she said.

Bennett College’s new president has a long and distinguished career as a journalist and business woman. She could regularly be seen on national programs such as CNN and BET, and could be heard weekly on National Public Radio (NPR).

She has also hosted talk radio programs in Washington, San Francisco and New York. As a writer and syndicated columnist, her work appears regularly in USA Today, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Ms. Magazine, Essence and the Progressive.

A committed activist and civic leader, Dr. Malveaux serves on the boards of the Economic Policy Institute, Women Building for the Future–Future PAC, The Recreation Wish List Committee of Washington, D.C., and the Liberian Education Trust.

Dr. Cole is Leaving

When Dr. Cole came to Bennett College five years ago, the school was in the red and on probation, but she had a mission and changed all of that by the next year.

At the beginning of her fifth year with Bennett College doing better than ever, Dr. Cole announced that she was leaving June 2007.

“Our committee worked diligently over the last few months, reviewing nominations from 72 candidates, which eventually led to the selection of three very impressive and accomplished finalists,” explained Gracie Coleman, chair of the Succession Committee in her press statement.

“I asked myself one day, ‘What would people remember me by?’ Would it be that I was a loud Black woman who hollered at a White man? Even though I was that, turning 50 forced me to evaluate my life and ask what’s next,” Dr. Malveaux shared.

She said that she was encouraged to apply for the position by friends and colleagues.

“I entertained this with much prayer. I was in constant prayer with Rev. Willie Wilson of Union Temple Baptist Church (Washington, D.C.) and my friend Cora Barry. I thought that maybe I could be the one.”

“My prayer was not that I would be the one that was chosen, but that Bennett College would get the right one. We can’t lose any more Black institutions.”

The Right One

“In total, our committee spent approximately 12 hours with each finalist in order to gain insights into the style and approach they would bring to the role as President and how they would establish priorities to address the needs of the college,” said Ms. Coleman.

“In addition, the Board of Trustees devoted most of its last meeting to the topic of presidential succession management and heard presentations from the finalists.”

“This is so me. I’m excited, elated and happy. I’m overwhelmed. Dr. Cole has done so much. It’s a lot to do, but it’s something I can do,” Dr. Malveaux said.

Askia Muhammad, White House Correspondent for The Final Call newspaper, as well as news director for Pacifica Radio’s WPFW-89.3FM, who was included in Dr. Malveaux’s book “Paradox of Loyalty,” said that her announcement has created quite a bit of comment among people who know her.

“Some people see her as volatile, but she’s cool. She’ll work very hard at this and be successful.”

Dr. Malveaux, a native of San Francisco, Calif., received her BA and MA degrees in economics from Boston College. She feels like everything she’s done in her life has prepared her for this position.

“I’ve been on an internship for the last 30 years to bring me to this point. I’m doing this because of girls like Shaquanda Cotton who was locked up and sentenced for seven years for pushing a teacher’s aide who was not injured in the incident. Our girls need a place that’s safe for us and a place where we’re celebrated.”

That love and concern for girls is why Mrs. Barry says that Dr. Malveaux will be, “student driven. She will be connected to the students. She will use her connections and personal contacts for the betterment of the students.”

Dr. Malveaux agrees that she will be student driven, but she will also focus on administration and fundraising.

“I won’t teach in year one. I will spend my time listening. I want us to grow together,” she said.

Growing Together

That’s how her relationship with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan can be described. “I thank God for Minister Farrakhan,” she said.

In 1995, while the Million Man March was being planned, Dr. Malveaux protested the exclusion of women. However, after the historic event took place, her views of her Brother changed.

“This man was put in my life to teach me about diversity. If I can sit down and talk to White people, why can’t I talk to my Brother? It just clicked one day for me.”

Has she spoken to him about her new position?

“I haven’t been able to speak to him yet. He loves our babies; he wants them to be armored as they go into the world with the confidence and education they need to navigate this world. I look forward to having a conversation with him,” she said.

A new chapter in her life

“This new chapter of my life combines four of my passions–my passion for social and economic justice; my passion for the empowerment of African American women; my passion for higher education; and, my passion for the survival, or better yet, the thriving of African American institutions.

“Now, I have yet another passion–a passion for Bennett College for Women. For the young women who have chosen to be educated here; for the faculty and staff that help deliver the educational product and the alumnae and community; stakeholders in the success of Bennett College for Women.”

Will she continue to do any of the things she was doing before?

“I’ll talk a lot less about politics because now I represent everyone. I have a skill set that allows me to do whatever I want, but Bennett College comes first.”

Bennett College for Women, located in Greensboro, NC, was founded in 1873 as a coeducational institution, and in 1926, was reorganized as a college for women.

A small, private, historically Black liberal arts, United Methodist Church-related institution, Bennett offers women an education conducive to excellence in scholarly pursuits; preparation for leadership roles in the workplace, society, and the world; and life-long learning in a technologically advanced, complex global society.