George Johnson delivers Bennett College Charter Day Convocation address
George R. Johnson, Jr., dean and professor of law at Elon University School of Law, said at the March 14 ceremony that Bennett College was a “rare and special place where women learn they can be all they want to be, all that their talents and their effort will allow them.”
The 2013 Bennett College Charter Day Convocation was held in observance of the 124th anniversary of the chartering of Bennett College by the state of North Carolina. Attendees included students, alumnae, faculty, administrators, Board of Trustee members and guests of Bennett College.
Dr. Esther Terry, president of Bennett College, presided over the ceremony and introduced Johnson.
“He has honored us with his willingness to be present with us today because his accomplishments represent in no small way the ideal of what our ancestors must have known was possible through education,” Terry said of Johnson.
In his remarks, Johnson reflected on the significance of Bennett College in the history of American higher education and on the contributions that Bennett College graduates have made in a variety of industries, in public life and in higher education.
“You cannot be familiar with American higher education and not know about the towering history of Bennett College,” Johnson said of the small, private, historically Black liberal arts college for women. “When you think seriously about it, the notion of a Bennett College was an audacious idea. In some parts of the world that remains to this day a very radical idea that women would be educated to think, to achieve, to lead. I am so grateful for those who had this notion and for those who still continue this vital work of preparing women for leadership and service, because to teach, to educate is to forge the future and that is what Bennett has done for the past 124 years.”
Some of the Bennett College alumnae, faculty members and administrators recognized by Johnson in his remarks include:
Dr. Frances Jones Bonner, a 1938 graduate of Bennett College and the first African American physician to train and to be a faculty member at Massachusetts General Hospital;
Dr. Linda Beatrice Brown, a faculty member and 1961 graduate of Bennett College, and author of Belles of Liberty: Gender, Bennett College, and the Civil Rights Movement in Greensboro, North Carolina;
Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, former president of Bennett College, the first African American female president of Spelman College and current director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art;
Dr. Joyce Martin Dixon, a 1956 graduate of Bennett College and co-founder of Creative Management Technology, Inc.;
Yvonne Johnson, a 1964 graduate of Bennett College and the first African-American Mayor of Greensboro, NC;
Dr. Julianne Malveuax, former president of Bennett College, economist, author, social and political commentator, and businesswoman;
Dr. Willa B. Player, former president of Bennett College and the first African American woman in the country to be named president of a four-year, fully-accredited liberal arts college;
Gladys Robinson, a 1971 graduate of Bennett College and current North Carolina State Senator;
Dr. Gloria Scott, former president of Bennett College and the first African-American to head the Girl Scouts of the USA;
Dr. Esther Terry, president and 1961 graduate of Bennett College, and former faculty member and administrator at University of Massachusetts Amherst;
Dr. Evelyn Thomas, assistant professor of mathematics at Bennett College.
“Bennett women are women of achievement, leadership, and service,” Johnson said. “These are the women who raised families, who attended and treated the sick, who teach in our schools, built our churches and sororities and colleges, who served our governments. If you love Bennett, as I know you do, you and all of us want to see her to continue to build on her historic legacy, this audacious idea of preparing young women – primarily women of color – to lead, to serve, with purpose, integrity, and unapologetic determination. May it always be so.”