09/19/14 11:57 AM

Cosby Chairs

The William and Camille Cosby Endowed Professorship Program

Historical Overview

Dr. William Cosby Dr. Camille CosbyIn 1987, Drs. William and Camille Cosby gave Spelman College a $20 million gift to construct a 69,000 square foot facility that would provide an intellectual nucleus for faculty in the humanities and women's studies. Dedicated in 1996 as The Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center, this facility houses the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art and a state-of-the-art College Archives.

This gift, the largest from an African American to a historically Black college, also established the William and Camille Cosby Endowed Professorship Program. Endowed at $4 million, this program supports professorships in the fine arts, humanities and the social sciences. It is a multidisciplinary initiative designed to enhance the intellectual, cultural and creative life of Spelman College and its surrounding community.

Through education, research, public performance, youth-based programs, and international linkages, the Endowed Professorship Program positions Spelman as a repository for the rich artistic expressions of the African Diaspora and other cultures of the world. Its goal, to enlarge and revitalize the unique interrelationship of scholarship, education, culture and service, is firmly rooted in the distinctive missions of Spelman College.

The ultimate goal of the program is to elevate the fine arts and humanities at Spelman College to a high level of recognition that is consistent with the College's historic legacy, and the vision and life work of Drs. William and Camille Cosby. Internationally acclaimed entertainer and philanthropist Dr. William H. Cosby and his wife, Dr. Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby, have enjoyed many ties with Spelman College over the years. Dr. William Cosby received an honorary degree from Spelman College in 1986, Dr. Camille Cosby received an honorary degree from the College as well in 1989, and two of the Cosby daughters attended the College.

Qualifications for Endowed Professorship Program

To qualify for the William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship, candidates are expected to have achieved the pinnacle of success in their careers. They must also utilize their experience to help expand intra- and inter-disciplinary curricular offerings, design a course rooted in their research fields, and facilitate joint initiatives with similarly focused colleges, universities, educational organizations and cultural institutions.

Each Cosby Endowed Professor brings a unique background to Spelman that will help accomplish these objectives. Read more about Spelman College's Past and Present Endowed Professors.


Endowed Professor Chairs
(click on names for biographical information)


Shirley Franklin
Two-term Atlanta Mayor and Cosby Chair in the Social Sciences

Alison Bernstein
The Ford Foundation and Cosby Chair of humanities



M. Jacqui Alexander
Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Toronto

Nawal El
, Ph.D.
Egyptian feminist author, physician and activist
Chair in the
Social Sciences

Lisa Farrington, Ph.D.
historian, curator, author and educator
Chair in the Humanities

Pearl Cleage
Activist, novelist, playwright, alumna
Chair in the Humanities

Patricia McFadden, Ph.D.
Scholar and activist
Chair in the Social Sciences

2003 - 2005
Renita J. Weems, Ph.D.
Biblical Scholar
Chair in the Humanities

2003 - 2004
William Darity, Jr. Ph.D.
Chair in the Social Sciences

2002 - 2004
Bernice Johnson Reagon, Ph.D.
Historian and Ethnomusicologist
Chair in the Fine Arts

2002 - 2004
Sheila Walker, Ph.D.
Cultural Anthropologist
Chair in the Humanities
(2002 - 2003)
Chair in the Social Sciences
(2003 - 2004)

2001 - 2003
Ayoka Chenzira, M.A.
Film Maker and Visual Artist
Chair in the Fine Arts