Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Commencement speaker national museum director

Photograph by Franko Khoury National Museum of African Art Smithsonian InstitutionJohnnetta B. Cole, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., will deliver the keynote address at Wheaton’s 179th Commencement on May 17.

Cole is a scholar, author and activist for social and economic justice. As director of the National Museum of African Art since 2009, she oversees a collection of more than 10,000 objects of various media and art forms.

Previously, she was president of Bennett College and Spelman College, making history in 1987 as the first African American woman to lead Spelman. She also was the first African American to serve as chair of the board of United Way of America, from 2004 to 2006, and the first woman on the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises.

She currently serves on the scholarly advisory board for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the construction of which will be completed on the National Mall by 2015. She also is chair of the board of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute at Bennett College.

Cole, who started college at age 15, has a master’s degree and doctorate in anthropology from Northwestern University. She has held teaching positions at several schools, including Emory University.

She has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees and has received numerous awards, including the Joseph Prize for Human Rights, presented by the Anti-Defamation League, and the Otis Social Justice Award from Wheaton in 2010. That year she also was named one of Ebony magazine’s 100 most influential African Americans. The American Council on Education awarded her the Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award in March 2013.

In May, Cole will receive an honorary degree at Commencement, as will Ronald A. Crutcher and four of Wheaton’s distinguished alumnae/i:

11-Karen-Cook-1Karen Strauss Cook ’74, a Wheaton Trustee emerita and a trailblazer for gender equality in the financial industry. She passed away at her home in New York on Oct. 2, 2013, at the age of 61. The degree will be presented posthumously. Cook’s career in finance spanned more than 30 years, most recently as chief investment officer of Steinhardt Management Company. From 1975 to 1988, she was a trader in the equities division at Goldman Sachs & Co. She was the first woman hired in equities at the firm.

11-Jonathan-CraneJonathan Crane ’95, who is the Raymond F. Schinazi Junior Scholar of Bioethics and Jewish Thought at Emory University’s Center for Ethics in Atlanta. He is an assistant professor in several departments, including medicine and religion. Crane, a third-generation Wheaton graduate (his mother is Kathryn Kadane Crane ’63; his grandmother was the late Helene Born Kadane ’35), majored in international relations and now holds four graduate degrees. He also is an ordained rabbi.

11-Mary-Anne-MarshMary Anne Marsh ’79, who is a nationally recognized political strategist and analyst with extensive experience in electoral politics, public policy and communications. She is a principal of the Dewey Square Group, a national public affairs and grassroots campaign firm in Boston. She has worked with numerous political clients, including Senator John Kerry and Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Marsh also is a Democratic political analyst on the FOX News Channel, WCVB-Channel 5 and WBZ-AM 1030 in Boston.

11-Anne-Imelda-RadiceAnne-Imelda Radice ’69, who is the director of the American Folk Art Museum. She has served in multiple government positions, most recently as director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. She has a master’s degree from the Villa Schifanoia in Florence, Italy, an M.B.A. from American University, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Prior to being appointed director of the folk art museum, she was acting assistant chair for programs at the National Endowment for the Humanities.