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Spelman College's In Memoriam Tributes

Dr. Cole Pays Tribute to Dr. Jane Smith

Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Ph.D. | 7th President

Johnnetta ColeSister President Mary Schmidt Campbell, My Spelman Sisters, Sisters and Brothers all, 

I begin my tribute to Dr. Jane E. Smith, by expressing my heartfelt condolences to her sons, Clifton and Chad Browning, her grandchildren, other family members, her friends and colleagues. As we mourn the passing of Spelman College’s distinguished and cherished alumna, Dr. Jane Smith, let us find solace in knowing that her soul is resting ever so peacefully. 

So much of the road that our beloved sister Dr. Jane Smith traveled is connected with my own journey. At different points in time, and at different institutions, we majored in sociology as undergraduates. We received our doctorate degrees from different institutions --- Jane Smith’s from Harvard, mine from Northwestern --- and we never strayed very far from the world of higher education. Jane Smith graduated from and returned to serve in leadership positions at Spelman, the college where I had the enormous honor of serving as the president.

She received her master of arts degree from Emory University where I would teach some years later. I worked closely with Dr. Smith when she served as director of the Atlanta Project, an initiative created by President Jimmy Carter. In 1998, Dr. Smith began her tenure as the president and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women, the organization where I now have the privilege of serving as the president and chair of the board.

Dr. Cole with the Class of 1991

Among the many memories of Dr. Smith that I will hold onto is how she commanded the attention of any audience to whom she spoke. I will never forget her devotion to the well-being of Spelman students; and I will always remember that Dr. Smith never strayed from her commitment to the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights. 

I call on words in a spiritual as I say to my dear sister-friend Dr. Jane Smith: Fare thee well, fare thee well. I’ll meet you on the other shore.

Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Ph.D.
President Emerita of Spelman and Bennett Colleges
President and Chair of the Board of The National Council of Negro Women

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