Honorary Degree Recipients
Johnnetta Betsch Cole
National Museum of African Art
Washington , DC
Dr. Johnnetta Cole was appointed director of the National Museum of African Art in March 2009. The National Museum of African Art is the only museum in the United States dedicated to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of traditional and contemporary African art. Founded as a small museum on Capitol Hill in 1964, it became part of the Smithsonian Institution in 1979, and in 1987 it moved to its current location on the National Mall. The museum’s collection of 9,000 objects represents nearly every area of the continent of Africa and contains a variety of media and art forms—textiles, photography, sculpture, pottery, painting and jewelry and video art—dating from ancient to contemporary times. In 2007, the museum opened the exhibition “African Vision: The Walt Disney-Tishman African Art Collection,” which features 80 superb artworks from one of the world’s finest and most respected collections of African art.
Cole serves on the Scholarly Advisory Board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and she has worked with a number of Smithsonian programs since the mid-1980s.
Cole is the board chair of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute, founded at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. The mission of the nonprofit institute is to create, communicate and continuously support the case for diversity and inclusion in the workplace and “the worldplace” through education, training, research and publications.
Cole served as president of Bennett College for Women (2002-2007) where she completed a $50 million campaign, opened an art gallery and initiated programs in Africana women’s studies and global studies. Before that, she served as Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Women’s Studies and African American Studies (1998-2001) at Emory University in Atlanta. Cole was president of Spelman College in Atlanta (1987-1997) where her appointment generated a $20 million gift from Bill and Camille Cosby. In addition, she completed a $113.8 million capital campaign. Under her leadership, Spelman College was named the number-one ranked liberal arts college in the South.
Cole has conducted research in Africa, the Caribbean and the United States and has authored several books and scores of scholarly articles. She has been awarded 54 honorary degrees from colleges and universities and won numerous awards. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Anthropological Association, having delivered its distinguished lecture in 2008. She serves on a number of boards, including TransAfrica Forum and The National Visionary Leadership Project.
Cole earned a doctorate degree (1967) and a master’s degree (1959) in anthropology from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree (1957) in sociology from Oberlin College.
Laurence John Fishburne III
Over the past years, acknowledgment of Laurence Fishburne's work as a multi-hyphenate actor/producer/director has been impressive. In 1992, he was awarded a Tony for Best Featured Actor In A Play, a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critic's Circle Award, and a Theater World Award for his work on Broadway as Sterling Johnson in August Wilson's "Two Trains Running." His rare television appearance in the '93 premiere episode of Fox TV's "Tribeca" landed Laurence an Emmy. And to complete a triple crown, he was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor of 1993 for his portrayal of Ike Turner in the film "What's Love Got to do With It."
The future looks as bright as the past for Fishburne, who recently signed on to CBS' hit prime-time show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." He joined the cast in 2009 portraying Dr. Raymond Langston, a former pathologist and traveling college lecturer who has recently been hired as the new CSI level 1.
Fishburne, who was last seen in the box office success “21” alongside Kevin Spacey also has several films in post production and slated for upcoming release. These include “Days of Wrath” opposite Amber Valetta and Wilmer Valderrama, and “Tortured” with Cole Hauser and James Cromwell. Fishburne will also be seen in “Black Water Transit” which tells the story of the conflicting agendas of criminals, cops and lawyers and in “Armored,” a heist film that revolves around an armored truck and the stealing of $10 million. He most recently signed on to star, direct and produce “The Alchemist” for The Weinstein Company. “The Alchemist,” the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.
Additionally, Fishburne returned to Broadway on April 30 th, 2008 at the Booth Theatre for a limited engagement of the one man show, “Thurgood”, about the life of Thurgood Marshall. His performance earned him a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, and a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play.
In 2006 Fishburne was reunited with his “What’s Love Got to Do With It” co-star Angela Bassett in Lionsgate’s “Akeelah & the Bee”. Laurence starred as Professor Larabee in this drama that follows a young inner city girl on her path to win the national spelling bee. For his performance he was awarded a Best Actor Award at the 2006 Black Movie Awards. The film sweeped the show with 3 other wins including Best Picture. Fishburne also produced the film through his Cinema Gypsy production banner. Immediately following he co-starred with Tom Cruise and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Paramount’s summer film “Mission Impossible 3”. Later in 2006, Fishburne joined the impressive cast of “Bobby,” which was nominated for a SAG award for best ensemble cast.
On stage in 2006, Fishburne portrayed an inspirational teacher in the new drama “Without Walls” by Alfred Uhry, directed by Christopher Ashley, at the Center Theatre Group’s Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. For this performance he was awarded Best Actor at the 17 th Annual NAACP Theater Award. He then starred opposite Angela Bassett at The Pasadena Playhouse in August Wilson’s play “Fences”. Fences broke the playhouse record for sales as it had a sold out run.
In 2005, he starred with Ethan Hawke in “Assault on Precinct 13,” which was a remake of John Carpenter’s 1976 film by the same name. In the film, a motley crew of policemen and prisoners captained by a reluctant cop (Hawke), band together to fight off a rogue gang that wants to free an incarcerated mobster (Fishburne).
In 2003, Fishburne was seen in gigantic box-office sensations “The Matrix: Reloaded” and “The Matrix: Revolutions” the follow up films to the 1999 Warner Bros/Silver Pictures’ box office hit, “The Matrix”. These films, which also star Keanu Reeves and Carrie Ann-Moss, were released in May and November 2003.
In October of 2003, he was seen in Clint Eastwood’s critically acclaimed “ Mystic River,” starring alongside the distinguished cast of Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, and Marcia Gay Harden. In January of 2003, Fishburne starred in the Dreamworks release “Biker Boyz.”
In October of 2000, Laurence made his directorial debut, in addition to starring in and producing “Once in the Life,” a film released by Lions Gate. The screenplay, which he wrote, is based on the one-act play “Riff Raff,” in which Fishburne starred, wrote, and directed in 1994. The play received critical praise and was later brought to New York's Circle Rep Theater. The initial run in LosAngeles was the first production produced under his own banner L.O.A.Productions.
In 1999 he also appeared at the Roundabout Theater on Broadway, playing the lead role of Henry II, in “The Lion in Winter”, a revival of the 1966 hit which focuses on the struggle between Henry II of France and his estranged wife, Elenor of Acquitaine. In addition, Laurence starred in and executive produced “Always Outnumbered,” directed by Michael Apted from a first-time screenplay by author Walter Mosley, for HBO.
In 1997, Laurence received an Emmy nomination (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special) and an NAACP Image Award (1998) for his starring role in the HBO drama “Miss Evers’ Boys,” which he executive produced. It is based on the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play about the true story of the Tuskegee Study, a controversial medical experiment (1932-72) in which the U.S. Government Public Health Service withheld treatment from a group of African-American men with syphilis. “Miss Evers’ Boys” was awarded five Emmys, including “Outstanding made for Television Movie” and the coveted “President’s Award,” which honors a program that illuminates a social or educational issue.
Also, Fishburne starred in Paramount Pictures’ “Event Horizon,” the science-fiction thriller directed by Paul Anderson and co-starring Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, and Joely Richardson, and "Hoodlum," in which he starred and produced. In "Hoodlum," directed by Bill Duke and co-starring Vanessa Williams, Tim Roth, and Andy Garcia, he plays legendary racketeer Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, the classy ex-con who defies infamous mobsters Dutch Schultz and Lucky Luciano to become king of Harlem's numbers runners during the violent Prohibition era of the 1930's.
In 1996, he starred in the MGM, action-comedy "Fled" and starred in the critically acclaimed film "Othello" in the title role, co-starring with Kenneth Branagh and Irene Jacob for Castle Rock. He is the first African-American to play the Moorish king in a major screen release and he follows a noble tradition of such actors in the role as Sir Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles.
In 1995, he starred in an original HBO film "Tuskegee Airmen," for which he received an NAACP Image Award for Best Actor in a Mini-Series, and Golden Globe, Emmy and Cable Ace nominations for Best Actor in a Mini-Series. The project tells the story of America's first African-American combat pilots and was an inspiration for Laurence and his pride in the project shows in his performance.
Laurence has appeared in several films: the steamy "Bad Company" for Touchstone, co-starring with Ellen Barkin; "Higher Learning," for which he received an NAACP Image Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, for Columbia Pictures as Professor Phipps, in which he re-teamed with writer/director John Singleton, "Just Cause" for Warner Brothers co-starring with Sean Connery and the Oscar winning film “The Color Purple”. Laurence's characters could all be described as confident and powerful - words often used to describe Laurence himself.
In regard to Laurence Fishburne the man, the adage "still waters run deep" fits. He has a quiet, commanding presence with range and strength evidenced through his stirring character portrayals. A reviewer once wrote about Laurence, "He takes a director's talents and gives them heroic size. He knows the power of taking your time. He knows the power of silence. He knows the power of concentration."
Laurence's power is definitely evident particularly in his strikingportrayal of difficult characters. As Ike Turner in "What's Love Got To Do With It," he captivated the public and the critics alike who predicted the Oscar nomination for this remarkable work.
As the New York Times put it, "The brilliant, mercurial portrayal of Laurence Fishburne is what elevates 'What's Love...' beyond the realm of bio-pic." Rolling Stone notes, "Fishburne keeps providing insights into Ike's rage that illuminate the character without excusing him...Fishburne is superb."
In "Searching For Bobby Fischer,” Laurence played a New York street-wise speed chess player who aids in the progress of a young chess protege. Once again he had critics and audiences cheering about his co-starring role filled with power and emotion. Just prior to these he played a very different role as that of an undercover cop, he co-starred with Jeff Goldblum in the motion picture "Deep Cover."
It is not hard to understand why roles are often created specifically for Laurence. John Singleton fashioned the role of Furious Styles in "Boyz in the Hood" after his own father, but shaped it with Laurence in mind. Singleton had become familiar with Laurence when Singleton was a Production Assistant on the popular television program "PeeWee's Playhouse" and Laurence portrayed Cowboy Curtis.
Another filmmaker that Laurence worked with on several occasions was Martin Sheen. Sheen created a role for Laurence, that of street-wise military prisoner named Stokes, in "Cadence," which Sheen directed after the two had gotten to know each other well during the 18 months it took to make "Apocalypse Now" when Laurence was 15 years old.
Laurence has been acting in films and on stage since he was 10, starting on the soap opera "One Life To Live," then making his feature film debut in "Cornbread, Earl and Me" at 12. At 14, he was cast in a show for the Negro Ensemble Theater and accepted to the High School of Performing Arts.
At 15, he was heading off to the Philippines for work with some of the greatest actors of our time under the most extreme circumstances for the epic motion picture "Apocalypse Now."
Following "Apocalypse Now," Laurence returned to his New York home base, Brooklyn, and continued to rack up impressive credits. Laurence has also appeared in "Class Action," "King of New York," "Red Heat," "Nightmare on Elm Street 3," "Cotton Club" and "Rumblefish."
His television experience includes "Decoration Day" for Hallmark Hall of Fame, "For Us The Living" for PBS, "Rumor of War" for CBS, and numerous other starring or guest starring roles. His versatility is a gift and he has been able to land roles not initially earmarked for black actors.
Laurence Fishburne continues to give back serving as an Ambassador for Unicef. In 2007, Harvard University honored Fishburne with an Artist of the Year Award for his outstanding contributions to American and International Performing Arts, as well as his many humanitarian contributions.
At the same time that Laurence Fishburne consistently breaks new ground, he appreciates that which is hallowed. In reflecting on those actors such as Sidney Poitier and Morgan Freeman that have paved the way Laurence says, "The power of their presence alone spoke to me, made me believe I could do the same thing." He has also worked with "ancestral memory" and finds it a "source of spiritual strength. I believe ancestors push me here, push me there, and guide me...they are a resource to be valued and respected."
Respect has come full circle.
Mr. Festus Gontebanye Mogae, NYB, MCC, PH, MP
Former President of the Republic of Botswana
His Excellency was born on 21 st August, 1939 at Serowe in the Central District of Botswana. He matriculated at Moeng College and went on to train as an Economist at the Universities of Oxford and Sussex in the United Kingdom.
He took up post as Planning Officer in 1968 and progressed to become Director of Economic Affairs. He was Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Development Planning from 1975 to 1976. He became Alternate Governor for Botswana at the International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 1971 to 1976. His Excellency served in various parastatal boards, as, Member of the Board for Water Utilities, Botswana Housing Corporation, Botswana Meat Commission, Botswana Meat Commission ( United Kingdom) Holdings, ECCO Cold Stores Limited and Allied Meat Importers Limited. He was also Director, then later Chairman, Botswana Development Corporation, Representative of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, Director of the De Beers Botswana Mining Company (Pty) Limited (Diamond Mining Company), Botswana RST Limited, Bangwato Concessions Limited (BCL) and Bank of Botswana.
His Excellency served in Washington, DC as Alternate and Executive Director, International Monetary Fund for Anglophone Africa from 1976 to 1980. He then came home to take up the position of Governor of the Bank of Botswana from 1980 to 1981. From 1982 to 1989 His Excellency was Permanent Secretary to the President, Secretary to the Cabinet and Supervisor of Elections.
He was appointed Minister of Finance and Development Planning in 1989 and became Vice President in 1992, until 31 st March, 1998 when he became the Third President of the Republic of Botswana. He was Chairman of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers from 1992 until 1996. By virtue of his position as Vice President, he was also Leader of the House for Botswana National Assembly. In 1994, he contested in the general elections and won a seat for the Palapye Constituency. He was an active member of the Botswana Democratic Party and served in various committees of the party including, Member of the Botswana Democratic Party Central Committee and Chairman of its Finance and Economic Committee, and Member of the Central Committee responsible for Letswapo Region from 1992 to 1995.
He was also Member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Member of the Parliamentarians for Global Action based in New York and the Global Coalition for Africa based in Washington D.C.
His Excellency was Governor for Botswana for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Member of the Joint Development Committee of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on the transfer of real resources to developing countries, Washington DC from 1989 to 1990.
He was also involved in community oriented organisations which include Kalahari Conservation Society, Botswana Society (Research Organisation) of which he is President, Lions Club of Palapye, President of the Botswana Society for the Deaf as well as being Patron of the Junior Achievement Botswana. He is also Chairman of the National AIDS Council (launched 30 March 2000).
His Excellency was awarded the highest honour of the Republic of Botswana, Naledi Ya Botswana – Gaborone (30 th September 2003) and the Presidential Order of Honour of Botswana (1989). He was also awarded the Officier de I’Order Nationale D’e Cote d’Ivoire (1979); I’Order Nationale du Mali and the HATAB’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Botswana’s Tourism Industry (1997); Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws – University of Botswana (September 1998); the Global Marketplace Award by the Corporate Council on Africa - Houston, USA (May 1999); an Honorary Fellowship of the Botswana Institute of Bankers – Gaborone, Botswana (July 1999); the Distinguished Achievement Award for AIDS Leadership in Southern Africa by the Medunsa Trust - Washington DC, USA (June 2000); the AIDS Leadership Award by Harvard AIDS Institute – Gaborone (December 2001); the 2002 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Weekend Chairman’s Award – Washington D.C., USA (September 2002); the Africa-America Institute National Leadership Award – New York, USA (September 2002); the Honorary Fellow – University College Oxford (2003); The Knight Commander of the Most Courteous Order of the Kingdom of Lesotho – Maseru, Lesotho (April 2004); the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) International Leadership Award – Gaborone (October 2004); the Golden Plate Award by the Academy of Achievement - New York, USA (June 2005); the Grand Croix - Highest award in Madagascar grated to dignitaries of the Nation) Antananarivo, Madagascar (June 2006), the Pan African Tsetse and Tryponofomiasis (PATTEC) by the African Union – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (January 2007), Doctorate of Humanity by the University of Limkokwing, Gaborone, Botswana (January 2008); TheCommander of the Legion d’Honneur Grand Croix of the Republic of France – Paris, France (March 2008); Taylor and Francis Award for significant contribution to women’s development and welfare – Gaborone, Botswana (July 2008) and the Honorary Life Membership Award by the Botswana Branch of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society in recognition of outstanding contribution to combating HIV/AIDS during term of Office as President – Gaborone, Botswana (September 2008). He is the winner of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for African leadership for ensuring “stability and prosperity”.
The Former President’s tenure of office ended on 31 st March 2008 and was succeeded by his former Vice President Lt. General Seretse Khama Ian Khama as the 4 th President of the Republic of Botswana.
His Excellency is married with three daughters born between 1969 and 1987 and a grand daughter.
Ronald A. Williams
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aetna
Ronald A. Williams is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aetna Inc., a leading diversified health care benefits company, which had revenue of approximately $31.6 billion in 2008. Under his leadership, Aetna has sought to make a positive impact on health care in America by serving as a catalyst for change, focusing the industry, public policy leaders, physicians and employers on issues aimed at increasing access and affordability.
Joining Aetna in 2001, Mr. Williams has focused on creating innovation in the industry, especially through information technology, and bringing new levels of transparency to the health care system. In September 2001, Aetna became the first national insurer to offer a consumer-directed health plan. In August 2005, Aetna’s launch of a new online consumer tool to view physician-specific price information was widely recognized as the beginning of a new era of transparency in the health care marketplace. More recently, Aetna led the effort to develop industry standards for electronic personal health records, which provide a new way for consumers to be more engaged in their health care.
In 2002, Mr. Williams was named President and joined Aetna’s Board. He was named CEO in February 2006 and Chairman of the Board in October 2006. Throughout his Aetna career, Mr. Williams has been outspoken in making the business case for quality in health care. He guided efforts to create Aetna’s Aexcel network to provide access to cost-effective, quality care in high-cost specialties.
Mr. Williams also is a strong proponent of meaningful health care reform. He was an early advocate in calling for an individual coverage requirement to expand access to health care and provide assistance to those who truly cannot afford it. He has championed specific reforms in op-ed articles he authored or co-authored in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Financial Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Mr. Williams also lends his time and expertise to a number of organizations, such as the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare, which he currently chairs. He is a trustee of The Conference Board and the Connecticut Science Center Board. In January 2007, he was elected to the Board of Directors of American Express Company, and in October 2008, he was elected a vice chairman of The Business Council. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he serves on the MIT North America Executive Board. He is a member of the Alfred P. Sloan Management Society, the Business Roundtable, the International Federation of Health Plans, the Healthcare Leadership Council and the National Intelligence Senior Advisory Group.
Prior to joining Aetna, Mr. Williams was Group President of the Large Group Division at WellPoint Health Networks Inc. and President of the company’s Blue Cross of California subsidiary. Mr. Williams joined Blue Cross of California in 1987 and accepted a series of increasingly prominent roles. Previously, Mr. Williams was co-founder and Senior Vice President at Vista Health Corp., group marketing executive at Control Data Corp., and President and co-founder of Integrative Systems.
Mr. Williams is a graduate of Roosevelt University and holds an M.S. in Management from the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.