Bennett College will party like it's 1996 when it hosts former President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Sen. Robert Dole for a major fund-raising event.
In a July 21 news conference, Johnnetta B. Cole marked her third anniversary as president of the historically black United Methodist women's school by again pledging that she will continue in the position until the school "is fully on solid ground" financially. Cole also offered a series of updates and said the theme for the coming school year would be, "Bennett College on the move from good to great."
"At the center of this celebration is my recommitment to help Bennett reclaim her rightful place in American higher education as she continues her rich legacy of transforming girls into phenomenal women," Cole said. "I am deeply grateful to my sisters and brothers in the Bennett College extended family who have contributed to the enormous progress we have made in just three short years. Now we are moving on to greater heights."
The black-tie gala involving Clinton and Dole will be Sept. 21 at the Grandover Resort and Conference Center in Greensboro. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. followed by the program at 7. Tickets are $500 per person, or $5,000 to sponsor a table.
Cole called the two men "greats of American politics and service." "We are truly fortunate to have these two amazing forces in the life of our nation come and support Bennett College," she said.
Clinton defeated Dole in the 1996 presidential election and the two have become friends in retirement, working together to provide commentary for the CBS television program "60 Minutes" and on other projects, including the World War II Memorial in Washington and raising money for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Cole worked for the 1992 Clinton campaign and was part of his transition team. She was mentioned as a possible secretary of education during the first Clinton administration.
Since she's been at Bennett, Cole has befriended Dole and his wife, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., and both have participated in raising funds for Bennett. Cole recounted a visit to the campus by Elizabeth Dole when she was running for the Senate and a promise from her to help Bennett College.
"A few days later I got a call," said Cole, "and the voice at the other end said, 'This is Bob Dole, and my wife said I'm supposed to help you.' I told him he should always listen to his wife. After that we began to introduce Sen. Dole to all that is Bennett."
Dole is chairing the Revitalize Bennett fund-raising campaign. Cole said the college has raised $24 million of the campaign's $50 million goal.
In other updates, Cole said:
Bennett will receive a $1 million challenge grant from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. The grant will fund a Kenan Scholars program for Bennett students.
Bennett has received additional grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and from Hong Kong/Shanghai Banking Corp.
Bennett alumnae have raised more than $1 million for the third year in a row. Cole also said that more than 30 percent of the "Bennett Belles" contribute money to their alma mater, a figure that has doubled since she came to campus three years ago.
Enrollment for the fall term is projected to be 530, which is on target for increased admission goals.
For the first time, Bennett welcomed Volunteers in Mission from the United Methodist Church, who worked at the campus this summer addressing some of the school's physical needs.
The press conference was held in the newly renovated Steele Hall, which has been transformed into an art gallery.
*Caldwell is a UMNS correspondent based in High Point, NC.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].