Cheyney University Celebrates Founders Day by Embracing Standards of Excellence Since 1837

February 28, 2014

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Cheyney President Dr. Michelle R. Howard-Vital (l) and Council of Trustees Student Representative Kristan Justice (r) present the Outstanding Public Servant Award to Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell (c), Cheyney Class of 1968 and Founders Day Convocation Speaker

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Cheyney University of Pennyslvania celebrated its 177th Convocation on February 28 with the theme "Embracing Standards of Excellence Since 1837." Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, a 1968 graduate of Cheyney, was this year's Convocation Speaker. She got alumni, staff, faculty and students rocking right off the bat with a fun rap in which she declared that she's Jannie from Cheyney and she's still in the game!  "Cheyney is in my blood," she declared.  In looking at Cheyney's legacy and the struggles of our ancestors, Councilwoman Blackwell said, "We've come a long way and we've made a lot of progress.  We need to be proud of how far we've come."  She told the young people gathered that they need four things in order to be successful: to study hard, pray, seek advice and give back.  

While much of Founders Day involves looking back, Dr. Michelle R. Howard-Vital, President of Cheyney University, reminded the audience that CU is moving forward.  "This summer," she said, "our Natural and Applied Sciences faculty will move into the university's new "green" state-of-the-art science center."  She also invited everyone to come back to Cheyney University on April 17th when the Keystone Honors Academy presents An Evening with Angela Davis.

Blackwell presented citations from her City Council colleagues and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in recognition of CU's Founders Day.  

In true Founders Day tradition, Dr. Vital singled out some loyal supporters whom, she said, embody "the spirit of philanthropy and volunteerism that has built and sustained this storied institution since 1837." Keystone First, a family of companies dedicated to promoting CU's comprehensive wellness through their business and through their charitable engagement, received the Excellence in Corporate Philanthropy Award.  The KBR Foundation received the Excellence in Strategic Grant Making Award for its longstanding support of student outcomes and success.  The Spirit of 1837 Award went to the Highsmith family which has long invested in the lives of Cheyney's education majors. Carly Highsmith, a 2004 CU graduate, accepted on her family's behalf saying, "It's the Cheyney way--to reach back and help those coming behind us."  The Outstanding Public Servant Award went to the Honorable Blackwell for her ongoing efforts to uphold and expand the university's legacy as an institution that provides access, opportunity and excellence.

Presenters from Jacobs Music and Steinway & Sons were on hand to give Dr. Vital a plaque that officially designated Cheyney University of Pennsylvania as an All Steinway School--a prestigious accomplishment that has been years in the making--allowing CU to join more than 160 other schools in the world with that same illustrious distinction. CU Music Instructor Toni Hall then performed a wonderful rendition of "How Great Thou Art," arranged by Dan Forrest, that beautifully showcased the Model D concert grand piano. 

The program closed with audience members rising to their feet, crossing their arms in solidarity, holding hands with their neighbors and singing the Cheyney Alma Mater which was written by Leslie Pinckney Hill, Cheyney's President from 1913 to 1951.  The Alma Mater says, in part: Thou has taught us not to falter, To be loyal, brave and true, Striving upward by thy spirit, In whatever we may do.