The Bennett Four – the first women who graduated from Bennett College as a four year liberal arts college for women. Ruth Artis Whitfield – the first librarian at Bennett. Maggie Simpson Matthews – the first African American Director of the YWCA in Detroit, Michigan. Margaret Dean Freeman – the first African American hired as a retail sales person who later joined her husband to establish their own clothing business. Alma Tarpley Taylor – the first President of the National Alumnae Association.
Maide Ruth Gamble Norman ’38
Belle Norman was an actress who appeared in various movies such as Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Airport 77, Halloween III, A Raisin in the Sun and also in the television series Dragnet and Days of Our Lives to name a few. Belle Norman’s acting career began in the late 1940’s at a time when African-American actors were not given many opportunities to showcase their acting skills and talent. She was known for refusing to play her character in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? In a stereotypically demeaning manner and even rewrote some of her lines to eliminate “old slavery-time talk.” While Hollywood offered her limited parts, Maide was able to play leading roles on the stage; she also appeared in numerous made-for- television films and mini-series. In addition to her acting career, Belle Norman taught drama at Stanford University and the University of California at Los Angeles, where she established a pioneering course on the history of blacks in American theater. Over the course of her long career, Belle Norman received numerous awards for her acting, including the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Award in 1977 which was one of the highlights of her career. Even though her experience of acting in early Hollywood cinema was typical for African-American actors, she was able to bring dignity to the characters she played.
Clarice Gamble Herbert ’40
Belle Herbert was the first African-American woman to assume directorship of a YWCA in Philadelphia. Herbert was part of a remarkable family that moved to Lima from Villa Rica, Georgia, in 1916. Her father, L.C. Gamble, was one of Lima’s first black policemen, served as a trustee of Wilberforce College and helped found Bradfield Center when his sons, James and Louis Jr., were not allowed to join the YMCA. He also was active in Republican Party politics for 37 years before his death in 1961. Her sister, Maide Norman was a stage, film and television actress, who, among her many roles, appeared with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? In 1920, when the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was ratified, her mother, Lila Graham Gamble, was the first woman in Lima to cast a vote. Belle Herbert, who, during her high school and college years was involved with the YWCA, became a volunteer desk clerk with the YWCA in Lima in the early 1940s. “Growing up black and having goals that, for a while, I thought were unachievable, the YWCA sort of helped me reach some of the goals I had for myself,” Belle Herbert said in a Oct. 19, 1997 news article, when she became one of 11 women inducted into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame.
Dr. Dorothy Brown ’41
Belle Brown was the first woman to practice general surgery in the South and eventually being made chief of surgery at Nashville’s Riverside Hospital. She interned for a year at Harlem Hospital in New York City, but was rejected when she applied for a surgical residency. At the time, many in the medical profession did not believe a woman, let alone a black woman, could handle the rigors of surgical training. Dorothy turned to Dr. Matthew Walker, Meharry Medical College’s longtime chief of surgery, for help. Against the advice of his staff, Walker asked Brown to join the faculty and she became a professor of surgery in 1957, a job she held until 1983. She was also the first African American woman to be made a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Dorothy’s determination, beliefs, and values helped her to break through barriers in other aspects of her life. In 1956, she became the first single adoptive mother in Tennessee and then, in 1966, when redistricting opened the door for an African American candidate, Belle Brown was asked to run for a seat in the state legislature and won becoming the first black woman representative to the state legislature. She was successful in getting a law passed that allowed single women to adopt children in the state of Tennessee. Among Brown’s many honors are the Dorothy L. Brown Women’s Residence at Meharry College in 1970, the humanitarian award from the Carnegie Foundation in 1993 and the prestigious Horatio Alger Award in 1994. As she often said, she was proud to be a role model, “not because I have done so much, but to say to young people that it can be done.”
Dr. Lucille Cole Thomas ’41
Belle Thomas serves on the 38-member Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn (NY) Public Library. She was appointed to this position by the Mayor of the City of New York. Each mayor has reappointed her since 1983. During that time she has served as president, vice president and chair of committees of the Board. Just recently, the Brooklyn Public Library named an award in her honor. The Lucille Cole Thomas award will be given annually to a staff member who meets the established requirements of excellence. She served as director of libraries for all elementary and middle schools for the City of New York. She is a certified librarian with a Master of Library Science degree from Columbia University. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. where she is an active member of Eta Omega Omega Chapter and has served as President and Co- Coordinator of their cluster.
Dr. Alice Holloway Young ’44
Belle Young is a gifted teacher, an untiring advocate and administrator. As a founding trustee of Monroe Community College, and as the chair from 1978 to 1998, she provided leadership that helped MCC become a premier institution. Belle Young was among the first African-American teachers, and the first African-American reading specialist, vice principal, and principal respectively in New York State retiring in 1985 as supervising director of elementary instruction. Other “firsts” include the first African- American Title I Director of programs for educationally and economically deprived children and the author and supervisor of the District’s first integration programs, the Urban Suburban Program, which is still in existence today. Her list of awards include but the About Time Exemplar Community Uplift Award; Urban League of Rochester’s Distinguished Community Service Award; Award for Humanitarian and Distinguished Achievement in Community Service; the Civic Award from the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce for Meritorious Contributions in the Field of Education, the University of Rochester Distinguished Alumna Award; and the highest honor conferred by the State University of New York Association of the Boards of Trustees of Community Colleges, the Anne M. Bushnell Memorial Award for Special Achievement. Dr. Young is a former fellow at R.I.T.; and a former president of the five counties Rochester Area Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa Fraternity and the Delta Kappa Gamma International Education Society.
Carolyn Robertson Payton ’45
Belle Payton was chosen by President John F. Kennedy to help develop the procedures for trainee selection for the Peace Corps. She was the director of the Caribbean region and was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the director of the Peace Corps. She was the first woman and the first African American to hold this position working as an overseas country director, supervising 130 volunteers working on projects on eight islands in the eastern Caribbean. As one of only two female country directors, Payton’s success was critical in demonstrating that women were equally effective could effectively do the job which resulted in gender being eliminated as a qualification for overseas staff positions. Payton was an active member of American Psychology Association and a fellow of Division 35. She was one of the original members on the Task Force on the Psychology of Black Women in 1976, now the Section on the Psychology of Black Women. The Section’s Early Career Award is named in Belle Payton’s Honor (The Carolyn Payton Early Career Award). Payton also served on many APA boards and committees including the Committee on Women in Psychology (CWP); the Membership Committee; the Committee of Scientific and Professional Ethics and Conduct; the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Concerns Committee; and the Policy and Planning Board. Her list of awards include the Distinguished Professional Contributions to Public Service Award, the APA Committee on Women in Psychology Leadership Citation Award honored her for her role as “an outstanding teacher, role model, and mentor for women and ethnic minorities. In 1997, Belle Payton received the APA Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology for her “dedication to using psychology to promote better cross-cultural understanding and to end social injustice by influencing political process.
Glendora M. Putnam ’45
Belle Putnam served as assistant attorney general for civil rights in Massachusetts before serving as chair of the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination. She extended her work, serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C., and as an equal opportunity officer for the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency. She was the first national president of the YWCA. She received her law degree from Boston University.
Dr. Marion Lee Bell ’53
Belle Bell is a retired educator who spent the second semester of 2014 teaching Transformational Leadership at Africa University, which is United Methodist affiliated, in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Bell taught 180 students during two successive six weeks periods. Marion’s students developed a prototype of a school, business or organization. The students’ oral and written presentations included their budget, fundraising, staffing and an execution of a detailed plan of operation. Bell taught similar courses to UNLV students in the last semester of its master’s program. Bell previously served as the Bennett College NAA President and on the Board of Trustees. Under her leadership, the alumnae raised their first million dollars collectively. She is a member of the Las Vegas Chapter.
Janol Whitfield ’53
Fred and Belle Janol Curry Whitfield ’53 received the Lifetime Community Service Award at the recent 56th Anniversary of the Sit-In Movement sponsored by the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro recently. They have been residents of Greensboro for over 60 years and married for as many years. At their 50th anniversary party her sons Fred and Charles honored them with an endowed scholarship in their name at Bennett. Belle Whitfield holds a Masters of Education from North Carolina A&T State University and retired after 30 years of teaching elementary school. They both have been longtime (over 40 years) contributors, volunteers and supporters of the Hayes Taylor YMCA where they have the “Teen Room” and classroom named in their honor. Belle. Whitfield was instrumental in assisting her class raise over $100,000 for their 50th class reunion in 2003 which was a record held until four years ago.
Dr. Juanita Patience Moss ’54
A past recipient of the National Alumnae Association Presidential Award and an honorary doctorate from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; Belle Moss is an author of three books about black soldiers serving in the Civil War. One of which highlighted her great-grandfather from Edenton, North Carolina who, as a runaway slave, joined the Union Army to gain his freedom. Belle Moss is currently receiving submissions for her second volume of Tell Me Why Dear Bennett: Memoirs of Bennett College Belles. She was also the featured speaker this fall for Descendant’s Day at The African American Civil War Museum in Washington, D.C. At this event, she shared information on Thomas Patience and Samuel James Patterson, U.S. Colored Troops soldiers who are listed on the African American Civil War Museum (AACWM) Monument as well as Crowder Patience, her great-grandfather who fought in a white regiment during the Civil War.
Marian Tasco ’54
Belle Marian is historically known as Pennsylvania’s first African-American County Commissioner. Tasco is widely recognized as one of Philadelphia’s most influential, politically savvy, and pro-active public officials. Elected to serve her seventh term as City Council Representative for the Ninth District in November 2011, the Councilwoman represents more than 155,000 residents in Philadelphia. Belle Tasco is the 50th Ward Leader. Tasco, who lives in East Mount Airy, was the second woman and first African American elected to the City Commissioners. She leaves the City Council with the distinction of service as one of its longest-tenured members. A member of Democratic National Committee, Councilwoman Tasco is on the Host Committee for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. She has an endowed scholarship at Bennett in her name. Belle Tasco retired January, 2016 after 30 years of service and requested that all funds from her retirement bash be given to Bennett College. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Dr. Joyce Martin Dixon, ‘56
Belle Dixon is a former member of the Bennett College Board of Trustees. In 2011, Dixon’s one million contribution marked the largest alumna gift in the history of Bennett College. The Martin Dixon Intergenerational Center is named in her honor. She continues to be a strong supporter of Bennett College. In 2015, she donated a 14-passenger bus to the center and college to use for field and road trips. Belle Dixon, along with her late husband, were co-owners of Creative Management Technology, Inc., a well-established federal services contracting firm headquartered in Cocoa Beach, Florida. They had two children, both whom died at early ages: the daughter of an incurable kidney disease and the son in a plane crash. Dixon initiated Linkages of Life, an organ, tissue and bone marrow donation awareness program, through The Links, Inc., in memory of their daughter. The international program is credited with saving thousands of lives. An annual scholarship is given in their son’s memory at the high school from which he graduated in Wiesbaden, Germany. Belle Dixon is a member of many service and community organizations including the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, Commission on the Status of Women, Junior Achievement Board of Directors, and the American Red Cross. She is a member of the Greensboro Public Library Foundation, the Leadership Council of the American Cancer Society, The Links, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Providence Baptist Church and the Bennett College Alumnae Association.
Hideko Tamura-Snider ’56
Belle Tamura-Snider currently serves as the Ambassador of Peace for the City of Hiroshima, Japan and was 11 years old in Hiroshima when the city was destroyed by an atomic bomb on August 6, 1945 at the end of World War II. For many years, Belle Tamura-Snider has been appearing before professional organizations, university classes, and community groups across the United States and in her native Japan, telling her story and encouraging people of all cultures and nations to examine the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and to work toward peace and nuclear nonproliferation. She tells of the challenge of peace and of lessons we have learned from Hiroshima since the war. She recently was a guest of the City of Hiroshima for its 70th anniversary where she gave the opening message to the children. A portion of her talk was about Bennett College and how she holds a special place for a College that was her first destination and refuge in troubled times.
The historic Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter Sit-in on February 1, 1960 is one of the most well-known incidents in Civil Rights history. This singular event was universally credited to four young men from North Carolina A&T State University. Significantly, the integration of public accommodations of that city and many cities followed. What historians overlooked:, according to Belles of Liberty: Gender, Bennett College by Dr. Linda Brown, ’61, was that the first Sit-in in Greensboro was carefully planned on Bennett College’scampus, and without hundreds of women who sat down, marched and were incarcerated from 1960 to1963, the sit-in effort and subsequent desegregation of Greensboro and even other cities, might not have succeeded. Bettye Davis McCain, class of 1963, committed to sitting at the “white-only” lunch counter of F. and W. Woolworth’s variety store with students from A&T and to return until it was integrated. On February 4, 1960, close to a dozen “Bennett Belles” were arrested due to their continuing protest at Woolworth’s. Among the Belles participating in the Sit-ins were: Yvonne Lyons Revell, ’63; Gwendolyn Mackel Rice, ’61; Roslyn Smith, ’61; Esther Terry, ’61; von Deleath Kersey, ’61; Mary Ellen Bender, ’60; Shirley Dismuke Graham, ’61; Dolores Finger-Wright, ’61; Jean Neff; ’62; Rosalyn Cheagle, ’62; and Nancy Kirby, ’60.
Dr. Linda Brown ’61
Belle Brown is an author, educator, and civil rights activist. She has taught at Kent State University, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Guilford College and Bennett College. At Bennett, she was the Willa B. Player Distinguished Professor of the Humanities where she taught African American Literature and was the director of the Honors Program. She is the author of the following books: Black Angels, Rainbow ’Roun Mah Shoulder, Crossing Over Jordan and The Long Walk, A History of the Presidency of Willa B. Player at Bennett College. She was awarded a Headlands Center for the Arts Residency by the N.C. Arts Council in 1992. Belle Brown has been a guest lecturer for the Greensboro Public Library Celebration “One City One Book,” where she gave a three part lecture series on Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying, and a three part lecture series on the novels of Toni Morrison. Her poetry appears in anthologies and magazines such as The Black Scholar, Ebony Junior, and the children’s magazine, Cricket. At 14 she began writing and published first in Beyond the Blues, a poetry anthology, when she was only nineteen. Her plays include Wildfire: Black Hands, White Marble, which is the story of Edmonia Lewis, a black Indian sculptor who broke historical barriers with her art; Kitchen Talk which details the ordinary lives of African American families; Congo’s River Song that was produced by the North Carolina Museum of Art; and Dangerous Pretty, a short story based on the musical life of New Orleans at the turn of the century. In addition, Black Angels was the “Okra” pick for the 2009 annual conference of the South Carolina Independent Booksellers and was named one of the Best of the Best Books of 2009 by the Chicago Public Libraries.
Dr. Esther Terry ’61
Belle Terry was the first alumna to ever serve as President of Bennett College., N.C. She served as provost and vice president for academic affairs beginning in 2009 and was been named interim president in 2012 after the resignation of Dr. Julianne Malveaux. During her tenure as provost, Terry oversaw a redesign of the general education curriculum and the establishment of an honors program that produced a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. During the May 2012 commencement, the trustees wanted to honor Esther’s good work over the past year by removing “interim” from her title and she was named Bennett College’s 16th President. Esther was a young student at Bennett in 1960 when she participated in the sit-ins at the local Woolworth lunch counter. She often recalled the planning of the Greensboro Woolworth’s sit-ins with students from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina (later North Carolina A &T University), being arrested for her participation, and the support of then Bennett College President, Dr. Willa Player. Prior to joining Bennett, she spent four decades as a faculty member and administrator at University of Massachusetts – Amherst in the W.E.B Dubois Department of Afro-American Studies and helped to establish a premier graduate program. Esther was one of the founding faculty of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, and was tapped to serve as its Chair in 1988. In 1996, the department inaugurated its doctoral program and she continued to serve as Chair until 2007. The department also developed The Esther M. Terry Award for the Distinguished Dissertation in Afro-American Studies in her honor. After her retirement in 2009, she became Provost at her alma mater.
Beverly Buchanan ’62
In the summer of 1977, following a ten-year career as a public health educator in the Bronx and East Orange, New Jersey, Belle Buchanan exhibited a selection of cast concrete sculptures at Truman Gallery on 38 East 57th Street. Three years later, in 1980, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship to create a large-scale public artwork using similar techniques in the Marshes of Glynn in Brunswick, Georgia. There was also a book written by Lucy Lippard titled, Beverly Buchanan, 1978 –1981, that looks at the social and aesthetic propositions of Buchanan’s art practice from these formative years. Through the economic, social, and historical networks that constitute Buchanan’s sculptures, this book explores how the artist’s memorials, mounds, and living fields intersect with life in the American South. Belle Buchanan explores Southern vernacular architecture in multiple mediums, encompassing sculpture, photography, drawing, and site-specific installation. Her work is held in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
Margaret S. Fortune ’62
Belle Fortune operates six K-8 charter schools, five in Sacramento and one in San Bernardino, California. The schools are college prep schools and are designed in every way to close the achievement gap between African American students and their White and Asian peers. Each of the classrooms adopts a college to model as a goal the young scholars are going to reach. They post t-shirts and pennants of each college beside the doors entering the classrooms. Bennett College is one of the colleges featured. Their network of schools is under the name of Rex C. and Margaret S. Fortune School of Education and the Fortune Schools.
Yvonne Jeffers Johnson ’64
Belle Johnson was the first African American elected to City Council in Greensboro and later became the first African-American mayor of the city. A native of Greensboro, she grew up on what was once North Carolina A&T State University’s farm on East Market Street, is now owned by the tobacco giant Lorillard. Her uncle, W.L. Kennedy, was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in dairy science. He owned the farm and paid for her education at Bennett College. Johnson was heavily involved in the Bennett community during her matriculation and her extracurricular activities included singing in the choir, leading a Girl Scout troop and participating in the Student Government Association. She was chair of the Bennett College Board of Trustees for ten years, served on the Board of Directors for the local United Way and served on the boards of the Malachi House, Triad Sickle-Cell Anemia Foundation, the Youth Services Bureau, the YWCA, Greensboro Cerebral Palsy School, and the Greensboro Child Advocacy Board. In addition, Yvonne was a board member of the local Commission on the Status of Women, the Black Child Development Institute, Goodwill Industries, Greensboro Education and Development Council, the North Carolina Community Sentencing Association, the Greensboro Arts Council, the Greensboro Housing Coalition, and the Sherri Denise Jackson Foundation. She has received numerous recognitions including the African-American Women of Distinction Award in 1993, the Girl Scouts of America: Wing Scout, the Curved Bar Award from Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Tau Omega Chapter Citizen of the Year Awards in 1995, the Greensboro Commission on the Status of Women Achievement Award, the Sigma Image Award, the James Benson Dudley High School Education and Sports Hall of Fame Award, the Bennett College Women of Substance Award. Belle Johnson is also the recipient of the Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award for Peace, Unity, Non-Violence and Justice and the Rosetta C. Baldwin Foundation Strength, Power and Bravery Award.
Susie Powell ’64
After receiving three nominations at the 34th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards in 2013, The Loving Story took home the award for Outstanding Historical Programming (Long Form) of which Belle Powell wrote the screenplay. In 1967, Richard and Mildred Loving challenged the Supreme Court to legally live in Virginia and have their marriage recognized by the state. The documentary examined the history and current tolerance for interracial marriages throughout the United States. Also nominated for Outstanding Documentary and Outstanding Editing at the News and Documentary Emmys, The Loving Story has had a history of critical acclaim since its premier at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April 2011. It has won the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) Documentary Screenplay Award at the AFI Discover Channel Silverdocs Festival in 2011 and the Gabrielle Award and the George Foster Peabody Award, both in 2013. Co-produced by HBO Documentary Films, The Loving Story first aired on HBO in February 2012. A black woman who was once denied the right to vote in rural North Carolina, Powell passed the Ohio Bar Examination and immediately set out to right the wrongs of our nation. After a full career dedicated to poverty law, Belle Powell began exercising her talent for writing. She has published many short stories. While the documentary periodically shows on HBO, it can now be purchased on Amazon.
Fay Lee Robinson ’64
Belle Robinson is an internationally acclaimed opera singer and a professor at the University of Arizona. Her spectacular career has been highlighted by performances in the major musical centers of Europe, North and South America. Opera houses include Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Argentina. Belle Robinson is equally renowned as a concert artist having performed with the Orchestras of Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Boston, London and Berlin. She has become known as a specialist in the interpretation of works by Sir Michael Tippett.
Barbara Reeves Hart ’64
Belle Hart was one of four recipients of Appalachian State University’s Faces of Courage Award. She came to Appalachian to earn a master’s degree in special education and became the first African-American to receive a master’s degree from the university. The Faces of Courage Award recognizes those who were instrumental in Appalachian State University’s early diversity efforts. Since retirement, she helped established the African American Quilt Guild of Gaston County in 2005. The guild has presented several community programs about the story of the Underground Railroad and the secret codes of the slave quilts correlating this story with the secret codes found in the Negro spirituals. For more than 30 years she served in various educational capacities including teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing in the states of California and North Carolina.
Dr. Joyce Garrett ’65
Belle Garrett received her M.M from Catholic University and Honorary Doctorates from Bennett College and West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon, WV. She is an honored educator and choral director whose award-winning choirs have performed for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, William Clinton, and Barack Obama at annual televised specials including “Christmas in Washington” and the “Kennedy Center Honors.” Belle Garrett also currently serves as Music and Worship Arts Ministry Director, Alfred Street Baptist Church, Alexandria, VA.
Dr. Dorothy C. Browne ’69
Belle Browne joined Jackson State University in 2015 as its inaugural dean of Mississippi’s first School of Public Health. Since 2012, Browne has served as an adjunct professor of maternal and child welfare at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health while also working with colleagues from UNC-CH and Duke University (Consortium for Social Equity) conducting workshops, teaching courses in health disparities and planning the National Health Equity Research Webcast (formerly the Annual Summer Public Health Research Institute and Videoconference on Minority Health). In 2009, Browne became the Special Assistant to the Chancellor and the Director of the Public Health Institute at North Carolina A&T State University. From 2001 to 2009, Belle Browne was the senior scientist for Morgan State University’s NIH-funded Prevention Sciences Research Center (which subsequently housed the Drug Abuse Research Program, the Summer Research Training Program for Undergraduate Students, the Health Services Research Training Program, and the Faculty Fellows Research Program in Drug Abuse Prevention). In addition, Belle Browne was co-director of the Morgan-Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions – a collaborative venture with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. She received her B.A. from Bennett College in sociology, M.S.W. degree from the University of Pittsburgh and the M.P.H. and Dr.PH from Harvard University. Browne began her public health career at the School of Public Health at UNC-CH, where she gained tenure and was promoted.
Dr. Gwendolyn Sneed O’Neal ’69
Belle O’Neal is heading a commission to establish an accrediting agency for the International Textiles and Apparel Association, an organization of academic and apparel industry professional from more than 20 countries. The agency will assure quality and accountability in apparel and textile programs in higher education. Belle Sneed retired in 2014 after 43 years in higher education with numerous honors, awards and academic publications. She is an ordained minister who serves on the Board of Trustees of Central Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Hattie CarweLL ’70
Belle Carwell, ’70, grew up in Ashland, Virginia where she was encouraged by her community to become a scientist. After graduating high school Hattie enrolled in Bennett College. She graduated from the college in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. In the fall of 1971, Carwell was enrolled in Rutgers University New Brunswick where she earned a M.S. degree in health physics. After graduating from Rutgers University, Belle Carwell obtained a position with the U.S. Department of Energy and the International Atomic Energy Agency as a health physicist and nuclear safeguards group leader. She worked both nationally and internationally for the agency. Belle Carwell went on to work in Vienne, where she served as a nuclear safeguards inspector and group leader at the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1980 to 1985. In 1990, she moved to San Francisco, California and worked with the Department of Energy as a program manager for high energy and nuclear programs. Later, Belle Carwell became a senior facility operations engineer at Berkeley in 1992. In 1994, she was promoted to operations lead, a position in which she held until 2006. She later became a senior physical scientist before retiring in 2008. Belle Carwell has written two books and numerous articles. One of her books is titled “Blacks in Science”: Astrophysicist to Zoologist.” Belle Carwell is a board member and served as President of the Northern California Council of Black Professional Engineers. She is a treasurer for the National Council of Black Engineers and Scientist, co-founder and chair of the Development Fund for Black Students in Science and Technology, and Director of the Museum of African American Technology Science Village.
Dr. Jacquelyn Grant ’70
Belle Grant became involved with the Women’s Studies Program at the Harvard Divinity School within the Women’s Research Program in 1977. Her involvement there led to the creation of the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, and she remained there until 1979. She also founded the Center for Black Women in Church and Society at the Interdenominational Theological Center in 1981, where she continues to serve as director and professor. A successful author, Belle Grant has written or edited several books, including White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response, the all-time bestselling book released by Scholars Press, and her most recent book, Perspectives on Womanist Theology. Belle Grant was the recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ministry Award in 1986 and has been nominated as the Woman of the Year in Religion by the Iota Phi Lambda Sorority. She also appears in Who’s Who Among African Americans.
Dr. Andrea Harris ’70
Bennett College Trustee Belle Harris transitioned to Senior Fellow after serving 28 years of outstanding service to the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development (NCIMED) and 26 years as its director. Her life has been dedicated to overcoming barriers to economic growth and opportunity. Growing up in the rural community of Henderson, North Carolina, during the heart of the Civil Rights movement, she had seen more than her share of inequality. After graduating from Bennett College, she chose to become a community organizer, rather than attend graduate school. In addition, she is a past recipient of the Abe Venable Award for Lifetime Achievement by the United States Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). Appointed by President Nixon, Abe Venable was the first person to head the Office of Minority Business Enterprise and this national award is given to an individual who has played an integral role in the creative, technical or professional progress of the minority business over the course of their life. Under Belle Harris’ leadership, in the past decade alone, NCIMED has provided consulting and technical assistance to nearly 11,000 companies and trained nearly 28,000 business people. Companies receiving NCIMED assistance have been awarded more than $256 million in contracts, completed nearly $197 million in financial transactions and created more than 21,000 jobs. In addition to the Abe Venable Award, her achievements have garnered her numerous awards such as the Triangle Business Journal’s Leaders in Diversity Award in 2014.
Irma Bivens Jackson ’70
Belle Jackson was featured in the Winston Salem Journal for her work as a master gardener. Jackson began volunteering at her grandson’s school, Diggs- Latham, when he was in pre-kindergarten and decided to start a community garden at the school. In the beginning, she was a committee of one. A few teachers, parents and students would drop by and help on occasion, but no one stayed long-term. Determined, Jackson was not ready to give up on her idea of a garden where children could learn about growing things. It was hard in the beginning because when the soil was first turned, it was discovered that building debris had been buried where the garden was to be. As the soil was tilled, often rocks, bricks and other items turned up, making it difficult to prepare for planting. But Belle Jackson was not deterred. She applied for a grant from the Whole Foods Foundation and received $2,000 to help purchase a much-needed tiller. Her first plants were donated lettuce that was too wilted to sell. Through people she met at Old Salem who were starting a children’s garden, she learned about seed collections and helped to launch the Homowo seed collection project, which collects seeds primarily from Africa or with African-American roots. Her grandson is now grown, but Jackson continues to maintain the community garden. Some of the produce from the garden goes into the school’s Backpack Program to feed hungry children. The garden has yielded strawberries, cherry tomatoes, carrots, peanuts, asparagus, and even green cotton. Although green cotton isn’t a food, it teaches children what cotton looks like before it is cleaned, spun and woven into cloth. Becoming a Master Gardener was never part of Jackson’s plan. A friend who was taking the Master Gardening class through the NC Agricultural Extension Agency asked Irma to come with her. Since she happened to have some free time, she took the class, became a Master Gardener, and recently was honored as the Agricultural Volunteer of the Year.
Vernelle Clements Boykin ’71
Belle Boykin is transforming lives by volunteering at five schools in Haiti. As an Education Team Mathematician and Chairperson for Community Coalition for Haiti (CCH), she works with principals, teachers, students and their families to promote student learning. She takes educational supplies, presents professional development seminars modeling proven teaching techniques and mentors teachers and students in their classrooms. Boykin photographs and collects background information for student financial sponsorships. She also compiles students’ health data (vaccinations, dental, height, weight) supporting CCH’s Medical teams.
Rose Jewell Jordan ’71
Belle Jordan was named Volunteer of the Year 2015/16 by the Susquehanna Township School District Volunteer Program in Harrisburg, PA. Belle Jordan is the founder and program coordinator of Youth Mentorvention, a school based mentoring program for at risk youth in grades 4 through 12. Belle Jordan and her five mentors meet with small groups of girls once a week at school for 1 to 2 hours. The mentors make an eight-year commitment to stay with the same group of girls from the 4th grade until they graduate. The young ladies who began the program six years ago are now in the 11th grade and are making plans to further their education. Rose has been a volunteer in the school district for 18 years. Belle Jordan received a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh, and has taken additional classes in clinical psychology at Penn State University in Harrisburg. Belle Jordan is married to Wendell Jordan and has four adult children.
Dr. Gladys Ashe Robinson ’71
Belle Robinson joined Piedmont Health Services and Sickle Cell Agency as Executive Director in 1982. Her roles as Executive Director are many, including the overall management of the agency, agency and program development, grant writing for new and existing projects, fundraising, chief liaison to the Board of Directors and directing the overall mission and vision of the organization. In addition to her management duties, Robinson is involved in several adjunct projects. She is currently serving as the Principal Investigator for grants funded through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), among others. She has served as an instructor at the Duke University Nonprofit Management Center, Triad Region; and is a Grants Reviewer for CDC and HRSA. Prior to her tenure at Piedmont Health Services and Sickle Cell Agency, Gladys served as Interim Executive Director and Program Director at United Services for Older Adults and as Director for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Dr. Robinson is currently serving as a Senator representing District 28 in the North Carolina General Assembly. Other professional and civic affiliations include serving on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, where she is vice chair of the Committee on Education, Planning and Policy and chair of the Health Affairs Committee. In addition, Dr. Robinson serves on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Teacher Academy and on the SETRAC (grants) Committee of the Greensboro Convention and Visitors Board. She chaired the North Carolina Council on Sickle Cell Syndrome for 12 years and does training for the membership of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.
Dr. Joan Yvette Davis ’72
Belle Davis is the Chancellor of Delgado Community College located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Davis was the unanimous choice of the 17-member board of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. Delgado is the state’s second largest college, serving over 30,000 degree-seeking and non-credit students at eight locations, including two new Technical Division sites. Prior to this appointment, she served as General Counsel, Vice Chancellor for Legal and Human Resources and Chief Executive Officer of the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education which provided workforce development training and assistance and as an Interim Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System.
Theresa Bennett-Wilkes ’72
Belle Bennett-Wilkes is a self-published author of Anna May and the Preacher: A Collection of Short Stories, 2nd Edition, which is available on Amazon. Belle Bennett- Wilkes is collaborating with Jovelyn Richards, actor and comedian, on Up All Night, a one-woman improvisational show, featuring Anna May and the Preacher. She is currently at work on her next literary offering, Unfinished Business: A Novel, due out in 2017. Belle Bennett-Wilkes grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently resides in High Point and teaches writing classes at Guildford Technical Community College, Jamestown, N.C.
Johanna Lee Wright ’74
Belle Wright is a well-known former basketball coach with the South-Orange-Maplewood (NJ) School District. During her 31 years of service at Columbia High School, her teams won eight conference championships, four Essex County championships and were a State Tournament of Champions finalist on two occasions with an 86 game winning streak. It is one of the longest winning streaks for any sport – girls or boys in the state’s history. Coach Wright has the distinction of being named the head coach in the inaugural McDonald’s High School All-American game at Madison Square Garden. Under her leadership, 60 of her players have attended college on full basketball scholarships. Belle Wright is not only a coach but taught health/family life and physical education at Columbia High School. She is the founder/advisor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Cultural Horizons Club and is a member of the South Orange/Maplewood Board of Education.
Deborah Tillman Love ’79
Belle Love currently serves as President of the Bennett College National Alumnae Association. This is her second time serving in this capacity (she served in 2013 where when elected, she was the youngest National Alumnae President). Belle Love is retired after 40 years with the Internal Revenue Service. Deborah is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Randye Jones ’80
In March 2015, Belle Jones launched The Spirituals Database, a resource that provides searchable information of over 1,600 tracks from recordings of spirituals written for the solo voice. As a part of The Art of the Negro Spiritual, it carries on the efforts to discover and share information about this music’s potential role in developing a singer’s repertoire. The project’s goal is the eventual publication of a discography of Spiritual art songs. The primary—but far from exclusive—audience for The Spirituals Database is the voice student and coach/teacher who are looking for these recorded resources. All too often, recordings may be the first exposure a vocalist or vocal instructor has to the Spiritual. That person, likely unfamiliar with the genre and with the singers who have recorded these art songs, can use The Spirituals Database to find these recorded resources for the study of how Spirituals can be performed in a concert setting. Even the more experienced performer of this repertoire will have reason to seek out information about the wide range of recordings– including a number of rare or out-of-print long-playing (33 1/3 rpm) and 78 rpm albums, audio cassettes and 45 rpm discs.
Dr. Valerie Callender ’82
Belle Callender is President of the Women’s Dermatologic Society (WDS) and a member of the Board of Directors. In addition to her various leadership roles with WDS, she is also a founding member and immediate past president of the Skin of Color Society. Belle Callender, an internationally recognized Board Certified Dermatologist, is known for her sensitive and cutting-edge approach to the management of female hair loss, the treatment of pigmented disorders and is also a prolific contributor to dermatology literature. She has co-edited a textbook on Treatment of Skin of Color, has written 18 textbook chapters and more than 45 peer reviewed articles for academic journals. She has made more than 160 presentations, including presentations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Portugal, South Africa, United Kingdom, and many others. Belle Callender has been a Visiting Professor at many dermatology programs, including the Mayo Clinic, Brown University, Boston University, Tufts University, The State University of New York, University of Maryland and the Henry Ford Health System. She has conducted and participated in over 40 research studies and clinical trials for both therapeutic and cosmetic products and is a consultant for some of the world’s leading cosmetic and consumer brands. Belle Callender is the medical director of the Callender Dermatology & Cosmetic Center in Glenn Dale, MD, which combines medical and surgical dermatology, clinical research, medical skin care, and aesthetics procedures and is currently an Associate Professor of Dermatology at Howard University.
Dr. Marcia Strong Millett ’84
Belle Millett is the first lady at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, AL where her husband Dr. Peter Edmund Millet serves as the sixth President. She earned her Ed.D. at Tennessee State University, Nashville, and her master’s degree from The Ohio State University. She currently serves as the associate dean for the Division of Professional Education and Director of Teacher Education at Stillman College. She was instrumental in the effort to secure an $8 million grant for Tennessee’s Race to the Top application. The funding supported a statewide consortium of teacher preparation programs which focused on improving K-8 mathematics learning. Belle Millett is also an author and has a chapter titled, Cultivating a Spirit of Joy, featured in Under the Magnolia Tree, by Richard Ashe. She serves on the following boards: Temporary Emergency Services of Tuscaloosa, AL; Big Brother Big Sister of West Alabama; Allocation Committee for United Way of West Alabama; and Nordstrom Advisory Panel.
Florentia Spires ’85
Belle Spires is a Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) Educator at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science in Washington, D.C. She was selected as an Albert Einstein Fellow out of a pool of 200 applicants. This is one of the federal government’s most elite opportunities for advanced professional development for STEM educators. Belle Florentia is working full time at the National Science Foundation and will be immersed in opportunities that weigh in on public policy as it relates to K-12 education specifically in computer science. She worked on several projects that promoted an increase in the number of well-trained teachers in Computer Science Education to 10,000 to be placed in 10,000 schools across the nation. Her greatest accomplishment was the creation of the CE21 booklet of Computer Science projects that was disseminated to all of the Principal Investigators during the 2014 CE 21 National Conferences. This experience has inspired Belle Florentia to work more fervently to ensure that students have access to quality S.T.E.M. programs for learning that ultimately impact their future endeavors. She began her science-teaching career as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana, Southern Africa. She also taught in the Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland, in a College Preparatory School, The Edmund Burke School before joining The Howard University Middle School. Spires has been teaching for more than twenty years.
Lisa Lunsford ’85
Belle Lunsford is the CEO and co-founder of Global Strategic Solutions LLC (GS3 Global) which was a finalist for the Michigan Supplier Development Council’s 2014 Minority Supplier of the Year Award in Detroit, Michigan. GS3 Global is a comprehensive supply chain management company she co-founded in 2010. The award recognizes outstanding achievements among Minority Business Enterprises (MBE’s) in business growth, development and operations. GS3 Global provides efficient, focused, successful management of materials, manufacturing, assembly, and distribution for companies – large and small, domestic and international. In addition to leading GS3 Global, Lunsford is also the vice president of sales and marketing for Deshler Group, GS3 Global’s parent company, and executive partner and co-founder of I Thine LLC, a software development company. As president of I Thine LLC, she developed an effective intermodal container management system and created a diversity monitoring system to track spending by OEM’s and suppliers. Her experience includes a decade as a research and product development engineer at Ford Motor Company where her first project was the 1988 Mustang.
Sonja Cambridge Wise ’89
Belle Wise currently serves as a Homicide Detective in Tampa, Florida. She is a member of the Honor Guard, past president of the Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers – Tampa Chapter and was the first African-American female Robbery Detective in Tampa. In her spare time, she is the lead vocalist for the local jazz ensemble “Ladyfingers.” Her sophomore CD project “It Is What It Is” debuted in 2012. Sonja is also the co-founder of a theatrical production company named Encore! Productions. A16-year veteran of the police department, Belle Wise is known not only for her character, integrity and work in law enforcement, but also for her singing talent. She is frequently asked to perform at city functions, from mayoral inaugurations to award ceremonies to memorial services. She has performed at athletic games and sang once for President Barack Obama when he visited Tampa. During her years with Tampa police, she has obtained experience in almost every unit, including patrol, homicide and gangs. Currently, she works as a detective in the department’s Professional Standards Bureau, investigating complaints against officers and reviewing their use of force. Her sister, Stephanie Cambridge Mardis ’00 was recently promoted to Lieutenant with the Greensboro Police Department.
Dr. Talia McCray ’90
Belle McCray was selected as a Fulbright Scholar in the United Kingdom a Visiting Professor at Glasglow Urban Lab for 2012-2013. Belle cray is an Assistant Professor in the Community and Regional Planning Program at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in transportation planning for the transportation disadvantaged population. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in the Urban Technological and Environmental Planning Program. During her time as a graduate student, she was an Eisenhower and Eno Fellow. Her dissertation work modeled prenatal care and transportation access challenges in rural South Africa. In September of 2003, Belle McCray won a Ford Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Laval in Quebec City, where she directed a study on the accessibility needs of low-income women, primarily dependent on public transportation. From June 2006 – September 2007, she directed a large interdisciplinary research and outreach project, funded by the University of Rhode Island Transportation Center, that addressed the activity and travel patterns of low-income teenagers in Providence, RI. Belle McCray has written several articles and papers addressing perceptions of violence and the use of space by urban youth, developing methodology to address the transportation needs of disadvantaged populations, and analyzing the effects of culture on healthcare access. In addition, she has served on the Board of Trustees at BennettCollege, Greensboro, NC, for nine years and received the 2000 Bennett College’s Outstanding Young Achiever Award.
Miji Bell, ’92
Belle Bell is Director for Communications at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service in Baltimore, Maryland, the second largest refugee resettlement agency in the United States. Making a difference in the world has always been a focus of this organization which was founded in 1939. Bell is responsible for guiding external messaging and communications strategy on national immigration policy, and heightens awareness of the plight of refugees from all corners of the globe including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, Central America and Syria. In addition, Bell serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the ELCA Mission Investment Fund, a $700 million church extension fund, headquartered in Chicago, IL. She is a devoted advocate for women’s and girls’ education and the eradication of child hunger and poverty.
Jen-ai Childress ’94
An elementary school teacher, Belle Childress is the author of two books, London Giselle Hall presents My Beautiful Mommy and Kids Wear Pink Too which was inspired by a four-year old little girl whose mother is battling breast cancer. Both books were written to help other children to sort out their feelings and learn how to cope with this deadly disease. The books will serve as a catalyst to jump start a non-profit organization that will assist the needs of children whose parent(s) are battling cancer and will give scholarships to students at historically black colleges and universities whose parents have had breast cancer. Childress’ mother and her Bennett sister Melody Hall ’94 were both diagnosed with cancer in 2006. Unfortunately, she lost her mother in 2010 but Hall continues to fight with stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer. Every year, Childress and her Bennett sisters walk for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk and raise money for the group they created – Melody’s Divas. The goal for this group is to foster a legacy for Melody’s now five year old daughter, Lauren Hall. It is a fun-filled weekend to honor their Bennett sister. More information about this project can be found at crowdrise.com/childrenandcancer or visit musabooksllc.wix.com/kidswearpinktoo.
Tammi McCall ’94
Better known in Los Angeles as “Tammi Mac,” Belle McCall has produced a one woman show, “Bag Lady,” which premiered in Hollywood, California in 2014. During the second weekend, the show included a Bennett Night. She has also created broadcast intern opportunities for Bennett students in the Los Angeles area. If it had not been for being terminated from her job at an urban adult radio program in Birmingham, Alabama, Belle McCall may not have found the courage to pursue her dream to become an actress. Today she hosts the “Mac and Amiche Afternoon Show” on Stevie Wonder’s radio station 102.3 KJLH FM which is rated number one in the African American community. She also hosts one of the top-rated adult urban evening urban night radio shows in the city. McCall has appeared in August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson, on Lifetime’s “Strong Medicine,” the Don B. Welch productions of “Idella’s Soul Shack” and “The Bachelorette Party.” She can also be seen in over a dozen national television commercials from Verizon to Capital One and she owns an extensive list of voiceover work which includes AARP, Baskin Robbins, State Farm, Union Bank and McDonald’s to name a few. This well versed talented, writer, producer, on-air personality and actress produce radio and television commercials under her production company, MACJACK.
Deirdre Pecchioni Cummings ’95
Belle Cummings is the daughter of Andrea Mast Pecchioni ’66 and sister of Amanda Pecchioni 97 (a licensed attorney). A former Miss Bennett College, she is an active leader in her community and is the President and CEO of Cummings Consulting, LLC in Louisville, KY which employs more than 50 therapists and case managers. Her team serves the public school system in Jefferson County and children who are at risk of hospitalization or incarceration. She is an author of several published books and, is a licensed therapist.
Lashena Sheffield Smith ’95
Belle Smith has made her mark in the world. She appeared as a guest on the Worldwide Radio Show to discuss her best-selling book, “Spiritual Morsels That Edify Your Soul.” She has participated in the CBGF – Congressional Black Caucus Annual Conference, The Author’s Pavilion and has started her own publishing company, Jeremiah Publishing LLC (JeremiahPublishing. com). She hosted a book signing at Bennett College and hosted a weekly radio show “Spiritual Morsels That Will Edify Your Soul with Lashena Smith” which debuted in October 2013.
Jennifer Farris ’96
Belle Farris served as a location scout for two major television network shows: BET’s Being Mary Jane and NBC’s Constantine and has scouted for other films and television series. Farris transitioned from entertainment public relations back into film and television which was the basis of her mass communications studies while at Bennett. A culture enthusiast since the 1990’s, she has educated audiences about nationally recognized creative arts projects surrounding music, public art, dance, visual art, film, and television through street promotions, direct marketing, publicity, journalism, broadcast production, and most recently, content creation. Her clients have ranged from the Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs, FunkJazz Kafe’s Arts & Music Festival, The Atlanta Ballet, Woodridge Productions for Sony Pictures Television and New Remote Productions, Inc. for MTV Networks. She was given the nickname “the research renegade” by her colleagues because of her ability to swiftly locate treasures and information. She credits the ability to garner quick results (under pressure) to her decade-plus career/training in the arts and entertainment business where “Make It Happen…Yesterday” was a daily mantra. She has also received recognition as one of the “Top 25 Most Influential Woman in Atlanta” by Rolling Out Urbanstyle Weekly.
Vicki Rose Merritt ’96
Founder of Teacher Paradigm, LLC, Belle Merritt has been in public education since 1996 serving as a teacher, principal and now founder of Teacher Paradigm, LLC. Teacher Paradigm is a web based teacher portal for teachers to connect from across the country to share ideas, resources and grow as professionals.
Ardena N. Githara ’97
Belle Githara has been appointed to the Women’s Law Center in Maryland as a member of the board of Directors. With more than 10 years of distinguished experience in the area of community building and youth engagement/development, Belle Githara is touted as a great asset to the Women’s Law Center as they advocate for women and children in Maryland. She currently serves as a Senior Grants Manager for a Federal agency. Belle Githaraa also is the founder and president of PENN Training Consultants which provides tailored one-on-one development and management consultation sessions to individual clients from a variety of fields.
Michelle Huff ’97
Belle Huff is the founder of Huff Entertainment, a boutique firm that produces events, public relations and marketing campaigns with unparalleled quality and service. Since 1999, Belle Huff has provided New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta and London with some of the most revered events, launch parties, strategic marketing plans and public relations services. Huff team has a history of ground breaking success by turning event ideas into masterful productions, building and executing strategic marketing and public relations plans and providing concierge and premier services to companies and celebrities, the. Current and past clients include: American Black Film Festival, Kevin Liles, Ashanti, Tamia, Ford Motor Company, Style Week Jamaica, Casio, BET Networks, Vital Marketing, Cove Lounge NYC, Imani Music Group, K.Milele Clothing, Algebra, Eric Roberson and the Hip Hop Hall of Fame. Some of Huff’s key campaigns and events have been: DKNY Jeans Department Opening in New York City, Usher’s “Confessions” Appearances in NY and BET Awards 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.
Dr. Jenora Turner Waterman ’97
An assistant professor of Functional Genomics in the Department of Animal Sciences at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Belle Waterman made a key discovery in the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) among agricultural workers. COPD is a major cause of death in the United States, most typically found among smokers. A less studied aspect of the disease is the 7% of its United States victims who are agricultural workers. They can develop COPD as a result of long-term exposure to animal production facilities containing dust that contributes to respiratory diseases. Her first key finding came from comparing pigs raised indoors with those raised outdoors. Pigs aren’t as severely affected by the dust as humans are, but her work demonstrated that their respiratory systems are uniquely adapted to their housing type. As a result of her work, she is currently a recipient of a professional development honor for junior faculty members funded through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program of the National Institutes of Health which will help to advance her research. Belle Waterman will receive funding and mentored training. In addition, she is also the director of the Respiratory Biology and Toxicology Laboratory at North Carolina A&T State University.
Dr. Tia Smith ’97
Belle Smith is an assistant professor and department head of the Mass Communication Broadcast Sequence at Xavier University of Louisiana. She earned her graduate degrees at Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication. Her research interests focuses on intersections of gender, media and sexual culture. Dr. Smith has lived and worked in diverse cultural and learning environments in the United States, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago giving her first-hand knowledge of the sensitive nature and challenges associated with issues of media, diversity and inclusiveness. Dr. Smith’s first book, Contradictions in A Hip-Hop World: An Autoethnography of Black Women’s Lived Experiences comprises of narratives of black women about their experiences as hip-hop fans and how they negotiate identity and sexuality in a culture that oftentimes pushes them to the margins.
Letresa Swearingen Williams ’97
Belle Williams is the CEO of Infinity Consulting Group, LLC. Glitz & Glam Jewelry by LJ-a division of Infinity Consulting Group. She creates custom jewelry for women, men, children, and organizations. Williams has grown her company through making positive impacts to the community. She has incorporated Give-Back GLAM – scholarships, donations and mentorship. Williams also has a book scholarship at Bennett College in her name.
Dr. Keisha Brown ’98
Belle Brown graduated from Bennett College with a bachelor of science degree in biology. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Dentistry and earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 2002. At UNC, she served as president of the Student National DentalAssociation. In addition, she was one of 10 students selected to travel to Mexico to treat needy children in the Neustros Pequenost Hermanos orphanage. Upon graduation, she was given the prestigious Dr. Henry Zaytoun Award that is presented to a graduating student who exemplified superior professional and ethical demeanor. In 2003, she completed a general practice residency program at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, DC. Presently, Dr. Brown resides in Raleigh, NC where she has her own private dental office treating children and adults. She also serves as president of the Raleigh Chapter of the Bennett National Alumnae Association.
Takiyah Starks ’98
In the Department of Biology at North Carolina A&T State University, Belle Starks ’98 was one of the guest panelists in honor of a National Alzheimer’s Month program. The event was hosted by the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Takiyah is the clinical research coordinator for the program at North Carolina A&T State University and has been featured in the local newspaper, the Greensboro News and Record for her efforts. The African American Alzheimer’s Disease (AAAD) Research Study at North Carolina A&T State University is a genetic research study that combines both research and outreach to better understand why African Americans suffer disproportionately from Alzheimer’s Disease and to educate the community about the effects of this devastating disease.
Starr Allen-Pettaway ’99
Belle Allen-Pettaway is the founder of “Sisters Standing Strong Together” in Detroit, Michigan. The program provides mentorship/ sponsorship services, therapeutic services, training, education, support groups for women confronted with everyday life struggles. These challenges can range from, but are not limited to; parenting issues, substance abuse, domestic violence, finances and any other barriers that may be hindering their personal and professional success. “Sisters Standing Strong Together” earnestly works to ensure that all women have the tools to win. Its mission is to provide women in the Detroit Metropolitan area, nationally and globally an opportunity to be successful with the necessary support and guidance in order to make their dreams a reality. As a Detroit native, she also serves as the Branch Director for Bethany Christian Services in Madison Heights, Michigan. For nearly 15 years, Belle Allen-Pettaway has had varied experiences with AIDS Service Organizations (ASO), delinquency cases, therapeutic foster care treatment, substance abuse treatment, the homeless, and general health care. Starr has executive leadership experience, having served as the chief operations officer for a federally qualified health center in the Northern Macomb/St. Clair County area.
Hope Inglehart ’99
Belle Inglehart will be featured in Danielle Beverly’s Old South which premiered on February 2nd on the World Channel. A young fifth generation funeral director, Hope’s character is fighting to preserve what is left of her African-American neighborhood and her mother’s home. In an effort to save it from further encroachment, she organizes community members to obtain official historical designation for her neighborhood, and community gardener Karen Witten plants seeds and cultivates a safe space for community interaction. The setting is one of the oldest, predominantly black neighborhoods in Georgia. The film introduces a young member of the Fraternity who struggles to convey his historical take on the Civil War, the institution of slavery, and the symbolism behind the Confederate Flag. By the close of the film, we see KA members working in the garden alongside African American community elders, and tutoring black children in math and English in the Baptist church. As Belle Inglehart explains in the film, “… [A]anywhere you live, you have to become a stakeholder; if not, then you are not part of the community.”
Stephanie Cambridge Mardis ’00
Belle Mardis joined the Greensboro Police Department in March of 2002 and has steadily moved up in the ranks serving as a criminal investigator, tactical special enforcement team member, vice, internal affairs and trainer. In November of 2015, she was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant being the first African-American female to receive this distinction in her division. Stephanie’s list of awards includes Rookie of the Year, 2004, Officer of the Month – March and April 2005, Outstanding Public Servant Award by the Greensboro Jaycees, Commendations, 2011 and 2012 and Officer of the Month 2014. She is also involved in the community with Junior Achievement of Greensboro, the African American Male Initiative, Wheels for Hope; Feed the Hungry and the American Red Cross. Belle Mardis is a highly sought after speaker form New Orientation Week at Bennett College and her sister; Sonja Cambridge Wise ’89 is a Homicide Detective with the Tampa, Florida Police Department.
Dr. Janell N. Catlin ’00
Belle Catlin has recently joined Teach for All as the Director of the STEM Initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In this role, she will lead the strategy and vision for STEM education in supporting nearly 40 different international education partners around the world. She is extremely passionate about improving global P-20 STEM education, and has been awarded for her scholarship by the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), and her alma mater, Bennett College.
Neda Brown ’01
Belle Brown is acting deputy chief of mission for the United States Embassy Nassau, Bahamas and prior to this appointment, she served as the Embassy Nassau’s Public Affairs Officer. While working in the Public Affairs Section (PAS), she led a dynamic team that whose goal was to engage and educate Bahamians on the work and priorities of the United States government. During her tenure, Brown built on the Embassy’s strong and vibrant friendship with the people of The Bahamas through the promotion of academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships. Brown joined the U.S. diplomatic corps in 2003 and has served as a media relations officer at the Foreign Press Center in New York City, under President Obama at the White House Situation Room, and at the State Department’s Operations Center where she provided 24-hour support to former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. Neda has also served overseas at the U.S. Embassies in Bogotá, Colombia and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and has completed temporary assignments in Mumbai, India and Santiago, Chile. Prior to joining the U.S. diplomatic corps, Brown worked briefly in the office of Senator John Edwards at the Department of State African Affairs Bureau/Office of Public Diplomacy. In 2006, Brown and her sister cofounded Brownskin Apparel LLC, a company designed to create and enhance positive self-images for people of color and she also assists her Bennett sister, Marissa Jenkins ’04 as the site expert for SOCIALgrlzLLC.
Marissa Jennings ’03
During her senior year at Bennett College, Belle Jennings was required to complete a senior project and she chose to design a magazine for young African American women. However, during her research of the magazine market she realized that there were limited reading options for these women. Simultaneously, Jennings saw that while the Internet was booming, there were no websites that related to young African American women, either. As soon as she began watching the app market, she knew that the future of her project was in a mobile app. That road has led Belle Jennings to be the CEO of SOCIALGrlz LLC; a mobile app designed for young girls aged 13 to 17 that specifically highlight African American women across multiple sectors like STEM, finance, and beauty. The first of its kind, the app’s mission is to provide positive images and stories that young girls can relate to, as well as a platform for their own voices to be heard. Jennings has geared SocialGrlz to operate on a 3 ’D’ vision: doers, donors, and door openers. She has obtained fantastic partnerships with the BET Foundation, Girl Scouts of America and the White House. Along with an extensive team, Jennings leads SOCIALgrlzLLC with the assistance of some Bennett sisters, Natalie Jordan ’04 who serves as the communication director and Neda Brown ’01 is the site expert. Among her other accomplishments, Belle Jennings was also one of the recipient of the White House “Champion of Change” Award for her work. For more information about SOCIALgrlz, please visit socialgrlz.com.
Natalie Renee Parker ’01
As an entrepreneur and small business owner, Belle Parker leads five Talents Consulting LLC to develop leaders and strategic thinkers. Since 2010, Parker has worked with church leaders in developing organizational systems and training programs to strengthen Christian discipleship and stronger relationships between church pastors and members. Equipped with more than a decade and a half of professional experience working with major Fortune 500 companies in the government defense and transportation industries, Belle Parker has acquired a wealth of proven knowledge, skills and abilities in human resource management and organizational effectiveness. Her expertise in coaching, teambuilding, and training design have aided her in the quest. She currently serves as senior human Resources Business Partner at America’s Railroad, Amtrak.
Kiandra Parks ’04
It was in 2000 when Belle Parks had a chance encounter with famed filmmaker Spike Lee, unknowingly setting herself on track as a future filmmaker. At the time, she had just read “Black Girl in Paris,” the debut novel by writer Shay Youngblood, and had been thinking of creating a film version of the story. When she spotted Lee after the Morehouse Homecoming football game, she went up to him and told him about her film idea. She asked for his guidance and he encouraged her to apply to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Now, many years after asking Lee for advice Kiandra’s debut short film, “Black Girl in Paris,” was picked up by HBO and Lee became her adviser while in graduate school. She had her film directing/writing debut in Black Girl in Paris on Kickstarter. She used this film as her thesis which starred Tracey Heggins and Zaraah Abrahams and was filmed by award-winning director of photography, Shlomo Godder. After filming in 2012 and touring the festival circuit in 2013, winning the American Black Film Festival’s Short Film Award, the twenty-minute movie is was available to view on HBOGo.
CPT (US Army) SharonFryar Height ’05
Out of 2,100 applicants Belle Height is a part of the 60 men and women that make up the 2015 Class of Tillman Scholars. As a Tillman Scholar, the newly selected class will receive over $1.7 million in scholarships to pursue their higher education and continue their service in the fields of medicine, law, business, government, education, technology and the arts. Belle Height plans to obtain a doctorate degree in Higher Education Administration with a career goal of ultimately leading a college or university as its President or Chancellor. She is currently enrolled in the doctorate program at the University of Alabama. With service in the military preparing her for management of diverse population, Height plans to serve as a catalyst for positive global change in the United States and abroad. While serving others and the community through academic preparedness, Belle Height plans to make an impact through her career and continued service by serving as an academic mentor to junior officers and noncommissioned officers.
Sharnikya Howard ’05
Belle Howard is the founder of The Belle Connection, a mentoring program for young ladies in middle school which focuses on STEM, self-esteem, and service. She serves on the board of directors for two local non-profits and recently launched the iEvolve program for single mothers in underserved communities where she provides life- skills/ training workshops. Earlier this year, her company, Life Abundantly Coaching partnered with Empowerment Station and the DC Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs (ORCA) to provide a vision and purpose workshop to returning female citizens. She is a recipient of the Women of Color in Technology (WOC) – All Star Award, an award reserved for accomplished women of color at an advanced stage of their careers that have demonstrated excellence in the workplace and in their communities. As a finalist for the Women in Technology (WIT)-Rising Star Award, Belle Howard has been recognized for not only succeeding in her career but for also mentoring the next generation of leaders. When asked why she spends so much of her time serving the community, Howard’s response is “I am the best me when I am serving others.”
Chaundra Luckett ’06
Belle Luckett is the Executive Producer of Fox 5/WAGA – TV, Atlanta, Georgia’s weekend newscast where she leads a team of more than 25 people each Saturday and Sunday. In addition, Luckett edits and approves stories covered in the newscasts, on social media channels and on their website. For the past three years, she has produced a three-hour webcast on election night, coordinating coverage and executing an online newscast featuring eight analysts, four anchors and up to ten reporters with live up-to-the minute coverage. Prior to moving to Atlanta, she worked at Fox Carolina in Greenville, South Carolina for three years and was nominated for two Southeastern Regional Emmy Awards and was the recipient of the South Carolina Associated Press Award for “Best Newscast” in 2011.
Lori Sherman ’07
Belle Sherman, a native of Evansville Indiana ran for the Democrat nomination for the Indian House in District 77. After graduating from Bennett College with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, Belle Sherman was admitted to a number of top tier law schools, but enrolled at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in Bloomington. She is one of five African-American attorneys currently practicing in Evansville. She works for the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Carmen Smith ’11, Jayne Walton ’11, Briana Barner ’11, Evette Brown ’11 and Myeisha Essex ’11
These sister-friends teamed up to produce an online publication named Nice Entertaining Magazine. Nice Entertaining Magazine is the home entertainment guide for women who value their real-life social network. The content is centered on the elements of entertaining – food, music, décor and hosting as well as inspiration from pop culture celebrities, political influencers and professional event planners. Visit niceentertaining.com.
Timogi Jackson ’11
Belle Jackson is a nationally sought after speaker, educator, author, and minister. She hosts two public access television shows, a YouTube channel, and weekly Empowerment Call. Jackson travels delivering keynotes, presenting at academic conferences, and preaching. As an adjunct faculty member teaching an all-male class and coordinator of a men’s program through her research became the first woman to present at the Minority Male Leadership Institute. She is author of Activation Required; Reconnecting to Your Purpose, Pack Light! Packing With Your Purpose in Mind.
Sward Tondoneh ’13
Belle Tondoneh serves as the Traveling Chief of Staff to Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who governs a city of 660,000 residents. In her role, Belle Tondoneh is responsible for ensuring the Mayor is fully briefed and prepared for every meeting and event she attends. Sward accompanies the Mayor for internal and external engagements, serving as a liaison to members of the Mayor’s leadership team and key external stakeholders. Prior to joining the Bowser Administration, Belle Tondoneh was the schedule coordinator for then Mayor-Elect Bowser’s Transitional team. She also currently serves as a Hometown Mentor for the College Success Foundation. Belle Tondoneh is an active member Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.